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Investigative journalism news site ExaroNews launches

A new investigative journalism site is today marking the launch of its “field trial”, during which time it will test the platform and carry a selection of articles “to give people an idea of what is coming”.

ExaroNews aims to “hold power to account” and will launch as a fully-fledged, paywalled investigative news site “in a few weeks”, with a focus on appealing to readers in the business community, Mark Watts, the site’s editor told Journalism.co.uk.

The new organisation plans to encourage WikiLeaks-style whistleblowing, hoping those with a potential story will contact the Fleet Street-based editorial team or leave the documents in an anonymous drop box, which will launch at a later date, Watts explained.

The server is physically located outside of the jurisdiction which means it makes it much safer in terms of attempts to find out who has passed information on.

As well as hoping to have leaked documents to investigate, the team of mainly freelance journalists will spend the majority of time “crawling public data for stories that are generally going missed”.

The journalists will be “investigating governments in the widest sense of that word, investigating public bodies and what they are up to” by analysing the “increasing volume of public data available”, Watts said.

Journalists working for a mainstream media title don’t really have the time to assess and make sense of that data.

The team of journalists

The growing team of journalists working for the organisation includes “people who have worked on both broadsheet and tabloid newspapers, people who have worked in broadcasting and people from trade magazine backgrounds”, Watts told Journalism.co.uk.

One of those is former Westminster correspondent for the Guardian David Hencke, he said, plus there are “those who are much fresher out of journalism college, particularly those who have learned a bit about data journalism and a bit about how to make use of information that is put in the public domain by an array of public bodies”.

Watts himself ran the investigations unit at the now-defunct Sunday Business, and has worked on the Sunday Times and on TV programme World in Action.

Sample stories

One of the stories currently on the site is on negotiations between the new Libyan government and the UK, which, according to Watts, was later reported in the Sunday Times.

Former Guardian journalist David Hencke has a series of stories on the site “how auditors found crazy examples of misspending by all sorts of Whitehall departments and all this was gathered from audit reports that were in the public domain but had not been picked up on”, Watts said.

Subscription costs

Paywall prices have not yet been set and readers will be able to access the site by paying for a subscription or can opt to micro-buy articles, Watts explained.

The site is particularly, but not exclusively, aimed at a business and City audience,  simply because we think that that’s probably where the paying audience will be, as distinct from the general consumer, which has got used to the idea of having content for free.

Once the paywall is launched readers will see a homepage with introductions to articles and will be then prompted to micro-buy or subscribe.

Investigative journalism does cost money and although people are getting used to the idea of getting news content for nothing, of course what they are often getting for free is just regurgitated, rehashed, or, to use that phrase, churned material which its no wonder is free as really it is pretty valueless.

ExaroNews is holding a launch party this evening (1 November).

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#wef11: Why Der Spiegel and the Hindu used WikiLeaks as a source

In today’s session on WikiLeaks and whistleblowing at the World Editors Forum in Vienna, the panel included a number of news outlets which have chosen to publish WikiLeaks material, and some which hadn’t, who shared their thoughts on the platform and process. Some interesting opinions were discussed.

First up, N Ram, editor-in-chief of India’s the Hindu told the conference that his publication had a clear understanding with WikiLeaks and as a result the newspaper was able to offer a “series of worthwhile insights”.

It is an astonishing achievement for any journalistic venture, not to mention a not-for-profit that relies on volunteers. It shows the power of new technology but even more the power of ideas of justice and freedom including the idea that information wants to be free and you have to show very good cause if it is not to be free.

WikiLeaks has a role on the global media stage, as a reliable source, as an enabler. My contention is that there’s nothing nebulous about WikiLeaks or OpenLeaks as a source and we need to cut through the muddle. The muddle is not out there but in our mindsets as professional journalists who often work on the assumption that we have to follow clear standards for dealing with a source. This is a myth. Market practice takes in an astonishing range, from ethically sound rules to an anything goes approach e.g. paying sources, corrupting high value sources, stings purely for sensationalism.

He added that it is not just sources which have an agenda, as do news organisations.

There is no special reason to be suspicious of the agenda of WikiLeaks etc. You just have to apply good journalistic verification procedures and standards.

Another newspaper which partnered with WikiLeaks was Der Spiegel in Germany. Editor-in-chief Mathias Muller von Blumencron discussed the pressures of this form of work, saying there is a lot of credibility at risk if it emerged that such processes were not safe.

It seems in the digital age every step is traceable. Perhaps we all focus too much on technical aspect. In the end it all becomes a very human factor, which I think is more important than the technical aspect. It’s called credibility and trust. Does the audience feel the news organisation handled it in protective way?

He said the paper decided to deal with WikiLeaks last year, as it had the impression that “the material was so important that we had to find a way to publish it in a responsible way”.

We were also thinking it was valuable to work with partners in other parts of the world. Things change. sources change, We don’t know about the future, but what happened during the last month was not making us very happy [a likely reference to WikiLeaks' decision to publish the US embassy cables in full unredacted form].

It was interesting to then hear the viewpoint of Tom Kent, standards editor and deputy managing editor of the Associated Press, which did not publish the material and is, in his words, a “virgin” as far as working with WikiLeaks is concerned.

Leaked information becomes really valuable when combined with interviews and analysis and leak sites tend not to do a lot of this. If leaking does become a new way of reporting, leakers will face the same issues as news outlets. How do you know what stuff is real? It will be increasingly possible to forge what seem to be authentic documents, or thousands of documents, so they may eventually find their credibility at serious risk. I would not like us to get to a place where we ask for information and authorities say “it’s secret, just try to steal it”.

Looking forward to the next step for newspapers, N Ram said papers need to be bolder and collaborate with hackers, “in a legitimate sense”.

The most elegant way will be to have an open-door approach. This can be a very powerful way of enabling although not soliciting sensitive material relating to security. We all have to gear up, take this seriously, because if we don’t do it other newspapers will.

During this panel session OpenLeaks co-founder Daniel Domscheit-Berg said why he feels journalists must become more aggressive.

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#wef11: Journalists must become more aggressive, says Daniel Domscheit-Berg

German journalist and co-founder of OpenLeaks Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who set up the whistleblowing platform after leaving WikiLeaks, called on journalists at the World Editors Forum in Vienna to become “more aggressive” in publishing public interest information.

Speaking on a panel titled ‘After WikiLeaks: The next step for newspapers’, Domscheit-Berg highlighted the importance of the role of journalists in extracting the stories from leaked material while WikiLeaks offers whistleblowers an ease of digital data-dumping not available through news organisations.

WikiLeaks offers part of the aggression that the civilians expect from you people but you don’t give it back to them.

The only new thing I think about the whole WikiLeaks story is that it offered people a means to submit large amounts of information that was easier than contacting you, by just a few clicks online. In the digital society this is what you as an industry needs.

The OpenLeaks model, which is not currently live, works on the premise that its role is to provide the technology for whistleblowers to pass on material to specific organisations, news outlets and NGOs, based on the needs of the source.

Domscheit-Berg said the platform was set live for five days in August which proved to be “quite successful”.

We want to be facilitators. We don’t ever want to get in situation of having information and then deciding who to give it to.

At WikiLeaks we had this big cache of documents and we wanted to collaborate with a few newspapers. So if you are an outfit that enables whistleblowers then you will have the trouble of not being political in who you work with.

A source of OpenLeaks can pick the organisation they think is good, and we pass it on. They decide how to go along with making this public. This will enable a more robust process.

Near the end of the session he also called on journalists to share information more freely.

I believe that we’re living in an information age, developing into an information age and in that age information is the currency so it’s very important that because of this world being so complex that we share this information.

It wouldn’t be right to offer a mechanism to make sure journalists get more papers and then put them in a drawer and the public will not know.

You need to be more aggressive in the way you’re publishing, being transparent and showing that you’ve done a good job. This will not only be better for everybody it will also make sure you get more credibility.

This is part of what the future needs, that we give out more information.

He added that OpenLeaks has mechanisms in place to ensure that, with the source’s permission, even if information is given to one organisation, it will be shared with others.

This is so the media do not depend on copying stories from each other but use source material from each other. This sharing is what the future needs.

He added that in the future the platform will also look to bringing in the wider community to help in the investigative process of working through larger batches of material.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, co-founder of OpenLeaks by journalismnews

There will be more from this panel on Journalism.co.uk soon.

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Leveson inquiry: Seminar dates announced as publishers express concern over panel

September 28th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Investigative journalism, Legal

The make-up of the panel of the Leveson inquiry, the public inquiry which will examine press standards, media regulations and the phone-hacking scandal, has come under criticism for lacking in tabloid and regional press representation.

In July prime minister David Cameron announced the line-up for the panel of experts who would assist with the public inquiry:

  • civil liberties campaigner and director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti;
  • former chief constable of the West Midlands, Sir Paul Scott-Lee;
  • former chairman of Ofcom, Lord David Currie;
  • former political editor of Channel 4 news, Elinor Goodman;
  • former political editor of the Daily Telegraph, and former special correspondent of the press association, George Jones;
  • former chairman of the Financial Times, Sir David Bell.

The Guardian reports that Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail, as well as Trinity Mirror, the Newspaper Publishers’ Association and Guardian News & Media, raised some concerns about the panel during a hearing today (Wednesday, 28 September).

Leveson indicated that he would consider whether to appoint extra advisers in response to Associated’s complaint. The judge said that he would reserve his decision, noting that the “pressures on the Liverpool Echo will be different to the pressures affecting the Mirror and the Sun; different to the pressures affecting the Observer”.

Today the inquiry also announced the dates for two seminars in connection with the inquiry, to be held on 6 and 12 October, which will explore some of the key public policy issues raised by its terms of reference and to hear expert and public opinion on those. More details on content and participants will be announced on the inquiry website shortly.

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#jpod in depth: The journalist’s right to protect confidential sources explained

This week’s #jpod looks at the rights of the journalist to protect their sources, in light of the now-dropped action by the Metropolitan police against the Guardian newspaper and one of its journalists.

The police force originally planned to obtain a production order to force the Guardian to hand over documents relating to sources of some of its phone-hacking coverage, but dropped its plans following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service. Today (23 September) the deputy assistant commissioner Mark Simmons will appear before the home affairs committee to answer questions on its planned action.

In this podcast we speak to three media law and journalism rights experts – media law consultant David Banks, NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet and Index on Censorship news editor Padraig Reidy – to clarify the rights of the journalist in such situations and what the recent events mean for the industry.

You can sign up to our iTunes podcast feed for future audio.

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New York Times: No Justice for Anna Politkovskaya

Image by openDemocracy on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Yesterday’s New York Times editorial was devoted to the case of murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Politkovskaya, who became known for her fearless investigative reporting of social issues in Russia and human rights abuses in Chechnya, was killed in her apartment building in 2006.

Five years on, no one has been convicted of her murder.

From the New York Times editorial:

At the time of her murder, Vladimir Putin, who is now the prime minister but was the president then, dismissed her journalism as “insignificant” and said that nobody “currently in office” could possibly have organized a crime that, he said, was committed “to create a wave of anti-Russian feeling.” To many Russians, that sounded like orders from the top that police or judges or prosecutors should take care not to accuse anyone in power.

Read the full article

Read Journalism.co.uk’s coverage of the case

 

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – getting documentaries on television

In a post on the BBC College of Journalism website documentary maker Eamonn Matthews lists a series of “rules” which journalists should be aware of when trying to get investigative documentaries on television, involving issues such as narrative, actuality and characters. In the post, which is an edited version of a chapter from the book Investigative Journalism: Dead or Alive?, published by Abramis, Matthews argues that journalists are more likely to get ideas accepted when they they have a better understanding of the “language of television, its demands and its power”.

Tipster: Rachel McAthy

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at Journalism.co.uk email us using this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – simplifying investigations

Over on the HelpMeInvestigate blog Paul Bradshaw has compiled an incredibly useful list of five ways to simplify investigations. The tips include writing a hypothesis, breaking down the process into more manageable tasks and keeping a record. He also offers plenty of tools and resources to help put these tips into action.

Tipster: Rachel McAthy

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at Journalism.co.uk email us using this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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Daily Mirror publisher faces ‘three to four’ phone-hacking cases, says lawyer

Announcing the launch of an internal review of editorial controls and practices last week, Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily Mirror, was keen to stress that the review was not connected to recent phone-hacking allegations levelled against its tabloid.

The publisher issued a statement in response to the claims that the Mirror was implicated in the use of the so-called dark arts, calling them “totally unsubstantiated”.

But allegations concerning the paper have since mounted. Lawyer Mark Lewis, who has represented a number of celebrities in phone-hacking suits against News International, said in yesterday’s Sunday Times that the Mirror is facing “about three or four cases which will start within the next few weeks”.

Another report, in the Independent on Sunday, claims that “top investors” in Trinity Mirror, undoubtedly concerned by the steep share-price drop the company saw last week, “want to know more” and have quizzed chief executive Sly Bailey.

Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, who was fired by Bailey in 2004, has come under scrutiny as the spotlight shifts from News International to Trinity Mirror, although he denies any knowledge of criminality at the Mirror during his time there. Conservative MP Louise Mensch was forced to apologise to Morgan in parliament last week, after incorrectly stating he had admitted being aware of phone hacking at the tabloid.

Citing evidence collected by the Information Commissioner’s Operation Motorman report, blogger Guido Fawkes has alleged that Morgan signed off on £442,000-worth of invoices submitted to the paper by a private detective. It is important to note, however, that the use of a private detective does not necessarily involve any criminality.

According to a report in yesterday’s (31 July) Sunday Telegraph, Trinity Mirror is planning to increase its cost-cutting target for the year from £15 million to £25 million, triggering further job losses.

The company is due to publish its annual financial results on 11 August.

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Greenslade: Phone hacking book deals already signed

The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade reports today that book deals relating to the phone-hacking scandal have already been signed.

This includes one for Guardian journalist Nick Davies, of which is said to be “provisionally” titled Hack Attack.

It’s scheduled for release in autumn next year. So it looks as though Labour MP Tom Watson will get in first because his tome, for Penguin Press, is due to be published before the end of this year. It is being co-written with Martin Hickman of the Independent, a former journalist of the year.

Greenslade adds that “there is not the least sense of competition or animosity between Davies and Watson”, with the story big enough for the two of them, if not more.

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