Panama Papers fallout, Flint and politics

Note from the Center

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Panama Papers Week II

Fallout from the epic Panama Papers story driven by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism rolled into a second week and I suspect may actually gather momentum in certain areas.

The Spanish industry minister resigned — adding to existing political crisis in Spain — OECD finance ministers met in a hastily convened session in Paris specifically called after Panama Papers, police raided the offices of Mossack Fonseca in Panama and Britain’s David Cameron announced a new multi-national tax secrecy initiative. There’s even a suspicion that Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif is vulnerable after he made a dash to England, supposedly for medical treatment after calls for him to quit.

The ICIJ’s own reporting burst on the project has abated a little this week with more on reaction and great contributions from Martha Hamilton, Emilia Diaz-Struck and the stalwart Hamish Boland-Rudder who has kept the remarkable Panama Papers microsite running and blogged throughout as the pace of resignations, raids, discoveries, conspiracy theories and claims emerged. 

By mid-this week the Panama Papers had generated more than 40 million page views on our properties (along with partners using our tracking code), 23 million of which went to the Power Players interactive. The explanatory video has been viewed more than 1.65 million times.

It’s a stunning achievement by ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle, Deputy Director Marina Guevara Walker and their team and partners around the world. Gerard has been asked to attend a Commonwealth panel ahead of Cameron’s slightly ironic Anti-Corruption Summit in London in May. While state media in places like Ecuador (where Gerard’s salary was published on the front page of a newspaper) and Russia continued to spew out conspiracy theories there is great recognition from journalism professionals at the scale of the achievement by the ICIJ’s work on the leak and its use of a network of more than 370 reporters worldwide to manage the leak received by German paper Suddeutsche Zeitung.

I suspect this one will run and run as they say.

Separately, the ICIJ crew — Sasha Chavkin, Michael Hudson and Cécile Schilis-Gallego - in partnership with Huffington Post won first place/writing for website from the 82nd National Headliner Awards for “Evicted and Abandoned: The World Bank’s Broken Promise to the Poor.”  The World Bank project was also a finalist in the IRE Awards for innovation in investigative journalism. 

Flint and the story in your backyard

Talia Buford, a member of Jim Morris’s environmental reporting team, was in the Washington Post and on our site with a thoughtful and I thought courageous commentary about her home town of Flint and why she didn’t quite appreciate the import of what her own mother was telling her about the drinking water bans. "I’d bought into the idea that “Flintstones” could take anything, never once questioning why they should have to,” she writes in a piece which I suspect will become a standard text for young journalist and was brave to write. You can see other pieces Talia has worked on through her author page on the Public Integrity site.

On a side note, Talia and her colleague Kristen Lombardi received a special finalist citation for “Environmental Justice, Denied” in the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award competition, sponsored by the Columbia School of Journalism. The award honors “outstanding achievements in reporting on racial or religious hatred, intolerance or discrimination in the United States.”  The project is also a finalist for science, technology and environmental reporting in the annual contest of the Deadline Club, the New York City chapter of Society for Professional Journalists.

Tracking the nukes

President Barrack Obama chaired his last 53-nation nuclear security summit in Washington recently and R. Jeffrey Smith who heads our national security coverage with a small but able team, focused on just how much is still to do nearly 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Foreign Policy tweeted that Jeff’s piece was “the one you need to read”. The team’s work was also cited in expert analysis of the state of nuclear proliferation for the summit by groups including Harvard University’s Belfer Center and the Stimson Center

The National Security team has really been on the ball with a strong news angle on the fact one of the Brussels suicide bombers was among those it had reported earlier involved in a plot to develop a dirty bomb.

Bernie outspends Hillary in ads

Michael Beckel, a witty and data-skilled, reporter on the federal politics team was nicely praised in a piece in the Washington Post for his ongoing work on who is sending what in the political race — in this case the Democratic race. It’s a good analysis in a sense by an outsider into what really makes the Center for Public Integrity’s focus on data and money in politics tick.

What we’re reading and thinking about

Two perspicacious pieces about the state of modern media — all of it and mostly commercially funded rather than non-profit — from two people I respect this week. Rafat Ali, whom I have quoted before and who founded the Skift travel site sees a clear out in new media (which if he is right I think will potentially impact on Public Integrity to some extent) while the sage Ken Doctor, of Newsonomics, sees a similar picture of dramatic change in our landscape underway right now thanks to shrinking display advertising revenue. Anyone who cares about the future of the newspapers, magazines or websites they read or TV news they watch will find both valuable.

I welcome feedback on this note.

Peter Bale, CEO, The Center for Public Integrity

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