International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

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ICIJ at TED: Panama Papers and a ‘new era for journalism’

Gerard Ryle at TEDSummit 2016

Collaboration can empower investigative journalists and help tell more compelling and important stories, according to ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle whose recent TED talk has been published online today.

Speaking in June at a summit hosted by renowned events company TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) in Banff, Canada, Ryle took the audience behind the scenes of the 12-month Panama Papers investigation.

Ryle helped coordinate the reporting of the international team of journalists who investigated the leak of 11.5 million secret files from one of the world’s top offshore financial services providers. The 2.6 terabytes of data were originally received by Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier at German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and were then shared with ICIJ and a reporting team of more than 370 reporters.

In his talk, Ryle said many Panama Papers collaborators had to fight their journalistic instincts to publish immediately as they found the offshore dealings of one public figure after the next.

“In order to make the biggest kind of noise, we first needed the biggest kind of silence,” Ryle said. “When you're an investigative reporter and you make an amazing discovery – such as your prime minister can be linked to a secret offshore company, that that company has a financial interest in Icelandic banks, the very issue that he has been elected on – well, your instinct is a need to scream out very loud.”

But the project’s spirit of collaboration held strong: remarkably, nothing about the leak was published before April 3, the day hundreds of articles based on the Panama Papers were published simultaneously around the world by more than 100 media outlets. According to Ryle, the model might herald the start of “a new era for journalism.”

Follow this link to TED’s website and watch Ryle’s lecture in full.

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