Network effects (where services become more valuable the more people use them) are some of the most powerful factors in technology and no more so in the case of the Panama Papers, the huge investigation unleashed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its partners.
It is undoubtedly the biggest story worldwide today — dominating radio bulletins, television and front pages from Munich to Montreal and Sydney to Sarajevo. The #panamapapers Twitter hashtag has been tweeted more than 1.58m times since Sunday afternoon.
Governments and corporations have been forced to react, some quizzically, some with denials and some lamely. Australian authorities said they were investigating 800 people already. The UK authorities asked if they could take a look at the documents. The Kremlin, which tried to pre-empt the story last week as part of a conspiracy against Vladimir Putin and Russia itself, reacted predictably by attacking the work saying journalistic standards had "sunk into oblivion.”
As far as standards go I don’t think any journalism organization could be prouder today of the work by ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle and his team and the extraordinary network of members and partners of the ICIJ. The genius of Gerard’s work in the past four years in managing the ICIJ collaborative network and in bringing major media companies on as partners played out in Panama Papers. But this is years in the preparation as last year’s Swiss Leaks, the previous Lux Leaks investigation and the original Offshore Leaks showed. [A huge vote of thanks to Gerard’s team, not least: Marina Guevara Walker, Mike Hudson, Mar Cabra, Hamish Boland-Rudder, Will Fitzgibbon, Cecile Chilis-Gallego, Matthew Caruana, Rigoberto Carvajal, Emilia Diaz-Struck, Sasha Chavkin and quite a few others who have made this work possible.]
The journalistic quality is clear also from the originator of the project, the organization which received the huge leak, the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung. It’s handling of the leak, the engagement with the ICIJ to manage it and run it across the network and the professionalism of the work behind the whole effort is remarkable and beautifully described in this how to by the ICIJ’s partners.
I believe the work on this project in unimpeachable, unlike some of the world leaders whose affairs have been exposed. It is a great advertisement for the non-profit model of the Center for Public Integrity and the ICIJ. We have had several hundred donations to the Panama Papers home page overnight and the reaction from our existing supporters has been overwhelmingly positive. This work simply could not be done without the philanthropic foundations and individual donors which back the ICIJ directly and the CPI as its parent. Thank you.
Pieces I would like to call out for particular attention include:
- The video from the ICIJ and CPI teams and supported by the Pulitzer Center which explains why all this stuff matters, how offshore structures allow injustice and even war to be financed.
- This new piece on blacklisted firms and individuals given shelter by the offshore corporate structures.
- The colorful story of an oligarch’s divorce unveiled by the papers
- But really the whole lot of the ICIJ’s work on this is fantastic and it’s all here on a specially built site managed by the team.
If I were you and wanting to check out what others have done, I would start with the English-Language version of Suddeutsche Zeitung, perhaps go on to the outstanding work of The Guardian, particularly on the Putin story. The BBC led its radio, television, and online news bulletins overnight and in to today on it and has a Panorama documentary this evening.
A gentleman from Charlotte, North Carolina, Mr J P Pritchard, called my office this afternoon: “Are you the people who did this work on the Secret Shell Game I read about in the Charlotte Observer today? Bless your hearts.” It doesn’t get better than that.
I welcome feedback on this note.
CEO, The Center for Public Integrity