Inside Offshore Leaks @ CIJ Summer School

The Centre of Investigative Journalism‘s Summer School 2013 starts in three days.  I will be joining Duncan Campbell and David Leigh to discuss the work involved in producing stories for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists‘s “Offshore Leaks” project.


David Leigh, Duncan Campbell, Craig Shaw | Sunday 14 July (15:05-16:15)

The 2012-13 Offshore Leaks reporting project of the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has forced law enforcement authorities in Britain, the US and Australia to admit that they had failed to act on information they held about secret offshore accounts, and to start taking action. The project has helped changed tax policy in the EU and with other international organisations (see; #offshoreleaks).

The Offshore Leaks reports were prepared from the largest collection of leaked data ever gathered and analysed by any investigative journalism team anywhere. The information analysed totalled 260 gigabytes (GB) of data. This is 162 times larger than the 252,000 US State Department cables leaked to and published by Wikileaks. The leaked data included company and trust documents and instructions, emails, databases, personal identity documents, accounting information and agents’ and companies’ internal papers and reports. The speakers will focus on the successes and failures of work on the project, the lessons learned and experience gained.
* * *
See timetable below, click here to visit CIJ site and find out more about this year’s Summer School.
Friday 12 July
8.20-9.10 Registration, tea and coffee in the Great Hall Foyer
9.10-9.40 Welcome by Gavin MacFadyen, Director of the CIJ in the Great Hall 
Talks: AG07 Talks: AG08 Talks: AG09 Labs: AG34A+B Labs: A308
9.45-10.55 The Secret History of Torture
Ian Cobain
Understanding Company Accounts: How to Get the Most of Companies House Martin Tomkinson and Robert Miller Libel and Privacy Law Justin Walford CAR Intro: Start Here if you are New to CAR (B) David Donald and Alex Plough
11.10-12.20 Understanding Company Accounts: Profits and Losses Raj Bairoliya Interviewing 1: Melanie McFadyean A Web Documentary Primer Kat Cizek Stats for stories with SPSS 1:  Frequencies and Other Descriptives (A) Jennifer LaFleur Excel 1: Power of Data Analysis for Stories (B) hands-on  David Donald and Caelainn Barr
12.20-13.30 Lunch
13.30-14.40 The Savile Panel Discussion with Mark Williams-Thomas, Paul Connew, Gavin Millar QC (chair) and Miles Goslett  in the Great Hall
Talks: AG07 Talks: AG08 Talks: AG09 Lab: AG34A+B Labs: A308
15.00-16.10 Understanding Company Accounts: Assets and Liabilities
Raj Bairoliya
Interviewing 2: Three Types of Interview: Roleplay
Robert Miller and Martin Tomkinson
The Politics of the Internet
Dr Richard Stallman
Stats for Stories with SPSS 2: Cross Tabulations (A) Jennifer LaFleur Excel 2: Finding the Patterns in the Data (B) hands-on David Donald and Caelainn Barr
16.25-17.35 Understanding Company Accounts: The Small Print and Q&A Raj Bairoliya How to Request Documents Under the Freedom of Information Act Brendan Montague and Lucas Amin Introduction to Offshore  John Christensen and Nick Mathiason Stats for Stories with SPSS 3: Linear Regression (A) David Donald Excel 3: Summarising Your data for the Big Picture (B), hands-on Jennifer LaFleur and Aron Pilhofer
17.55-19.05 Jim Nichol will be talking about  The Marikana Tragedy
In the Great Hall
19.05-21.00 Party

Read more of this post


Investigative Reporting: Is it still a staple of the modern press?

The following piece is based on interviews I conducted in February/March 2011, and is obviously disadvantaged by not having the Leveson Inquiry to reference or the full revelations regarding NotW phone hacking. 

I am unable to understand how a man of honour could take a newspaper in his hands without a shudder of disgust. – Charles Baudelaire


Journalism has forged a strange and unique reputation within society. Without a doubt an efficient and functioning independent press is the keystone of an open and honest democracy. Over the decades journalists have effectively saved lives, exposed corruption and toppled a President. But in the public consciousness, journalists are demonised and lionised in equal measure. With its own retellings and representations, Hollywood has further promoted the idea of the ‘investigative reporter’ as wielder of ‘truth’ against the tyranny of injustice, but also the invader of privacy and the destroyer of lives. This duplicity is standard stuff, and not entirely incorrect.  As journalist Roy Greenslade would put it, “in the public estimation of our worth, we rank alongside politicians and estate agents. It always seems to have been the case, since the dawn of newspapers onwards.” (2010)

It can be argued that journalism itself is in some way investigative, but the differences between standard and investigative journalism appear to be vast, not least for those who practice the latter. However, those with a romantic sensibility always look backwards. Many journalists cite ‘Watergate’ as a crucial influence upon their career choice, and a benchmark for the power of the press and investigative reporting. It is nearly 40 years since Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate, and there have since been many significant investigations, but none which garners such affection as the probe into President’s Nixon’s crooked machinations.

Times were different in the 70s. The modern news industry is plagued with an increasing assortment of destructive forces: the decline in sales and revenue; the increasing online imperative; the rise in public relations; libel laws and injunctions; and shortages in newsroom staffing. And although investigative reporting in the current age sets itself apart from (or in opposition to) day-to-day news reporting, it is nevertheless shackled to the same sinking ship.


Defining investigative journalism in a broad sense rarely poses much of a problem. Those with an opinion on the matter tend to agree on the fundamentals: that investigative reporting sets out to uncover that which, for whatever reasons, is concealed. But, ‘what’ investigative reporting is does not take us very far. To begin to get a more accurate picture requires a bigger focus on ‘why’: why there needs to be a culture of journalism that by its nature is much more in-depth. Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: