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Team players: How to navigate a multi-newsroom investigation

By Cynthia Ferraz

Hailed by moderator Ellen Weiss of Scripps Washington Bureau as “champions of partnerships,” John Kelly of USA Today; Marina Walker Guevara of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ); and Richard Pienciak of The Associated Press offered tips and presented an overview of managing partnerships within a multi-newsroom project at the 2015 IRE Conference.

Walker Guevara is deputy director of ICIJ’s network of 200 international reporters who electronically collaborate and assist each other with data that could be “incredibly complex and risky” to tackle alone. She said these partnerships are based on the idea of “radical sharing,” meaning that journalists can offer their expertise and join resources through shared documents and data to produce a story with global impact. She considers these relationships to be a “true collaboration of equals, whether it is a partnership with the biggest newspaper in the world or a small investigative outfit.”

“It can be as challenging, or more challenging, than building external partnerships,” Walker Guevara said.

When using this radical sharing method, the AP’s national investigative editor Richard Pienciak said it is important to remember every journalist participating in a collaborative project is going to have a different skill set and resources.

“Its important to assume that you are addressing the weakest link involved in the project, not the strongest,” Pienciak said. “Everything has to be written and explained in such simple terms, and you have to be available to help people if they need you.”

John Kelly of USA Today is involved in collaborative, data-driven investigative journalism projects that include newspapers and TV stations across the country. He said the benefits of participating in a network investigation, such as being able to contact people behind the data and access deeper records and documents, are worth the challenges that come with it.

“You can create a better story by asking someone from a tiny newspaper halfway across the country for help,” Kelly said. “Get past your ego. Create a better story.”

According to the panel, participating in radical sharing and network investigations not only strengthens the final product and provides outside expertise, but also allows for a slew of other benefits, some of which Walker Guevara listed:

  • Paid for documents: shared
  • Footage and photos: pooled
  • Translation costs: shared
  • Multimedia and interactive applications and published across partner’s websites: shared
  • Cross-reference and linking: expand the reach of stories
  • Legal risk: diminished

 

Cindy is a writer, observer and aspiring journalist from northeast Pennsylvania studying Journalism at Temple University. She’s made Philly her new hometown, mainly because there’s a lot less snow.

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