Trump watch, Panama Papers and media in crisis

Note from the Center

By

 Updated:

Dear Colleagues,

Our U.S political team finds nuggets in a plain weird presidential campaign where the winds of advertising spending have blown from fruitless big spending by Jeb Bush to a concerted attack on Donald Trump from what looks like the entire Republican apparatus. The fallout from the ICIJ’s huge Panama Papers rolls on through the halls of government and finance globally and there’s another big phase coming. I’ve also collected a few rather depressing perspectives on the current state of the media which calls for reflection from those of us in the non-profit sector.

No stopping Trump

"The federal politics team continues to make news in the incredibly crowded field of political journalism with astute analysis of advertising spending,” writes deputy executive editor John Dunbar. “

Our most recent story — “Donald Trump steamrolling toward nomination despite negative ad blitz: Opponents vow to fight on after late start to messaging campaign” — ran in four major national outlets:
- NBC News: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/donald-trump-steamrolls-despite-negative-ad-blitz-n563531
- TIME: http://time.com/4309674/donald-trump-campaign-ads-attacks-kantar/
- Public Radio International: http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-04-27/despite-barrage-negative-ads-donald-trump-poised-win-gop-nomination
- Huffington Post is also directly linking to our story off its politics page.

Kudos to authors Michael Beckel and Cady Zuvich as well as editor Dave Levinthal and John, for producing and marketing a compelling, insightful and original news story on the primaries the morning after the polls closed. The timing of these data releases has also demanded some long and late hours  from all of these folks in order to produce articles that are timely. Personally, I like the way our use of the data on advertising fleshes out the more anecdotal coverage from others.

Dave, something of the “face” of the Center on political TV out of Washington, is also a loyal Buffalo person and described this week’s primaries on WBEN in that city. Dave is also on this Variety PopPolitics podcast.

Those packages are an illustrative example of our multiple approach to audiences: on-network on our own sites, on partner sites and on different media. The team also drove the story strongly on social media. Michael Beckel also noted the power of our archive with a 1992 report on Paul Manafort, now allegedly making Trump more presidential, cited in this report from the libertarian Cato Institute

Dave Levinthal adds that a December 2015 investigation by Cady Zuvich about a Florida man who has created hundreds of super PACs was cited in an MTV.com article about joke super PACs and the headaches they create for federal regulators.

Panama Papers

Impact from the revelations of tax avoidance and evasion from the tens of thousands of Russian doll offshore corporations inside the Panama Papers leak rolls on around the world.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which is coordinating the network with access to the leak from the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, announced this week that we’ll publish the information on companies contained within the leak next month. To understand how that data will be searchable and get an idea of what it will reveal and equally what it won’t, it’s worth looking at the Offshore Leaks where it will live.

We can expect another huge surge of interest in the data and the story, all of which will require careful management. The ICIJ team, in partnership with SZ, is working on bringing additional partners into the project to ensure that the  depth of what is in the enormous leak is fully explored by experts from relevant countries. It remains a vast undertaking.

The right environment

Jim Morris, the Center’s managing editor for environment and labor, spoke about the sorry state of worker protections in America at the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s annual conference in Chicago on April 12.

Reporter Talia Buford fielded more interview requests to discuss her very personal commentary on the Flint water situation, which appeared in the Washington Post online April 15 and in the Sunday Outlook section on April 17.

Standing up for ordinary folks

In the wake of its December 2015 story on predatory lending by tile-loan companies, the Center filed – and subsequently lost – an appeal to the Virginia regulatory agency overseeing financial institutions to release financial reports for the nation’s three largest title loan companies, says Allan Holmes, head of our business-in-politics unit. The Center filed Thursday with the Virginia Supreme Court a notice to appeal the ruling by the State Corporation Commission to keep the records private. No word on when the court will hear the case.

Partners and perils

Reveal, the podcast and radio show produced weekly by the Center for Investigative Reporting, is one of our most important and consistent partners for Public Integrity. I value the quality of the work and projects like the recent hour-long show on politics with John Dunbar and his team drove that home. The CIR is taking big risks with Reveal as a forceful and expensive innovation as this lengthy analysis in the Columbia Journalism Review showed. 

A welter of news and commentary this week about the tough climate in the media business, particularly those that rely on display advertising which is being vacuumed up on a gigantic scale by Facebook, hence its powerful quarterly results.

The Bay Area News said it was doing away with much of its copyediting. This piece on Gawker about BuzzFeed is a good reminder that valuations can get ahead of reality. Then there’s Michael Wolff on the “suicide mission” at The Guardian.

Former Bloomberg editorial leader and co-founder of The Verge and Vox Media, Joshua Topolsky had a gloomy view of the search for the “new, new thing” to save the media in this worthwhile piece on Medium.

For me the lesson again and again is that we have to do the things we are good at well and repeatedly and get better and better at doing them: great execution on platforms we control (our own site), great partnerships which get more and more strategic (for us this could be Gannett/HuffingtonPost and others) and a much stronger drive on social media, primarily Facebook. That core is great journalism, data journalism and now what the ICIJ calls distributed journalism.

Public Integrity founder Chuck Lewis wrote a strong piece on The Guardian about what the Panama Papers can teach us about the future of journalism which he says is all about collaboration.

Awards count

On the awards front the photographers who worked with the ICIJ on its multi-award-winning project with the Huffington Post “Evicted & Abandoned” won a Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists. The same project and also Fatal Extraction have won Overseas Press Club awards to be announced tonight.

I welcome feedback on this note.

Regards,

Peter
CEO, The Center for Public Integrity

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