It was less than a year ago that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 other media partners began publishing the largest investigation in journalism history: The Panama Papers.
Even here at ICIJ – where we’ve grown accustomed to our work sparking major impacts – we were surprised by the reaction.
Citizens hit the streets in protest. Governments and corporations around the world opened at least 150 inquiries, audits or investigations. Iceland’s prime minister and other high-profile figures resigned. Network news and comedy shows – and the iconic daily newspaper cartoon Doonesbury – were compelled to weigh in on the Panama Papers. One CNN columnist said: “This is an earthquake. The aftershocks will continue for months, even years to come.”
This is why we do what we do.
Through all of our investigations – such as Skin and Bone (2012), Luxembourg Leaks (2014) and Evicted and Abandoned (2015) – we’ve worked to produce journalism that has real-world impact. We’ve been successful at this because we’ve learned to harness the power of media collaboration and technology to help redefine what investigative reporting means in the 21st century.
Now we’re at a new crossroads. We are spinning off from the Center Public Integrity, the nonprofit news organization based in Washington, D.C., that founded ICIJ in 1997.
As of Feb. 24, ICIJ is a fully independent nonprofit news organization, still headquartered in Washington and still committed to doing the best cross-border investigative reporting in the world. As we begin this new chapter, we remain grateful to the Center for Public Integrity for its 19 years of collaboration and its continuing support as we make this transition.
The decision to move to independent status was not easy. It was prompted by a strategic assessment of where we are and where we want to go next. We believe this new structure will allow us to extend our global reach and impact even farther and build on the lessons we’ve learned and the successes we’ve enjoyed.
We believe that today, more than ever, some stories are too big, too complex and too global to be tackled by lone-wolf investigative reporters or even individual news organizations.
Giant corporations operate their businesses on global scale. Environmental and health emergencies rarely stop at any one nation’s borders. Money moves around the world with a click of a keyboard, and financial crises in one land are likely to spread to others and sometimes, as we saw in 2008, around the planet.
ICIJ’s in-house staff totals less than 15, but we multiply our reach and impacts by working with nearly 200 ICIJ member journalists from more than 60 countries. We also regularly work with journalists from outside the ICIJ membership.
Over the past five years, ICIJ has pivoted to also become a network of media organizations. We work side-by-side with more than 120 news outlets worldwide, ranging from The New York Times and The Guardian to small nonprofit outfits in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia and South America.
We coordinate these global collaborations using innovative communications technologies, including our own in-house software systems, and encourage our partners to share resources to amplify our combined reporting power and achieve the kind of impact that forces governments, NGOs and average citizens to take notice and take action.
We are fortunate to be living in a golden era of information that can empower and strengthen investigative journalism. Information is being offered to journalists on a scale never before thought possible, not only from whistleblowers such as the Panama Papers’ so-called John Doe, but also from publicly available sources – government websites, data obtained through freedom of information laws, and corporate reports.
We believe investigative reporting ought to be taking better advantage of technology and the new abundance of information. Despite all the problems that mainstream journalism faces these days, we see this as a time of opportunity. We have an opportunity to do better reporting, to better defend fundamental human rights and to make nonprofit investigative journalism a powerful voice for justice around the globe.
We hope that you will join us on this next phase of ICIJ’s mission. Over the coming weeks, months and years ICIJ will need your support more than ever. You will see changes on our website, our social media channels and our mailing list. We’ll be asking for donations as we set up new infrastructure to support our journalism. And we’ll be asking for your help spreading the word about ICIJ and sharing with us your valuable tips, leaked documents and information for future investigations.
As we seek our own 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from the U.S. tax authorities, ICIJ will operate as the Worldwide Investigative Reporting Enterprise under the fiscal sponsorship of the Institute for Nonprofit News. We’re the same ICIJ team, and all donations will support ICIJ’s ongoing investigative work.
If you’re ready to dive right in, you can find out more about how to donate to ICIJ here. We’ll be adding more donation options soon, and will launch a crowd-funding campaign in the near future, so please do stay tuned.
You can also help by liking or following us on Facebook and Twitter, and by sharing our work with your friends. And sign up to our mailing list, where we’ll keep you up to date on our work and on ways you can continue to be involved in and help our work.
We have a long list of people to thank for their part in supporting us and guiding us over the past two decades: our ICIJ members, advisory committee, our founder and all our colleagues at the Center for Public Integrity, just to name a few. Special thanks is due to a committee of ICIJ members who helped nurture a plan for ICIJ’s growth: Sheila Coronel, Fredrik Laurin, Giannina Segnini, David Leigh, Bastian Obermayer, Margo Smit and Ying Chan. We’re also grateful to Alexander Papachristou from the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice and the team at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP for their generous pro bono legal support and advice.
Finally, we also want to thank you, our readers, for joining us on this important journey and for your ongoing support as we continue to hold the powerful accountable and produce journalism with meaningful impact.