How ICIJ chose our offshore reporting partners

At ICIJ we collaborate on “deep dive” stories that cross borders, then release our findings to media partners without cost. Here’s how we choose which reporters to work with, and the organizations to publish the finished work.

ICIJ offices

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is an organization of 160 reporters in more than 60 countries. We collaborate on “deep dive” stories that cross borders.

The subject of our investigations are decided either by our members or by ICIJ's small staff, based in Washington, D.C. and New York.

How we assemble a reporting team 

Projects are usually offered to ICIJ members after some initial research is done on a topic by ICIJ staff. 

Our recent project into offshore tax havens was first introduced at a gathering of ICIJ members at an investigative journalism conference in Kiev in late 2011, without spelling out the details. Those who told us they would be interested became part of an initial team of 10 journalists.

Next, we used our member listserv to announce to all ICIJ members that we were looking into offshore tax havens and inviting them to join. It is also usually through our members or our member contacts that we hire the extra freelance expertise that we need.

If possible, we try to work with other investigative journalism centers within a region. For instance, we went to the Romanian Center for Investigative Journalism for the tax havens project and made it our “hub” for Eastern Europe. The Romanian center offered support on a regional basis in the way that ICIJ supported reporters on a global basis.

The next, lengthy stage of the project was to extend our research, all of which was shared and distributed to those who joined the project.

How we find media organizations to publish our investigations

ICIJ is a nonprofit investigative organization and we release our findings to media organizations without charge to them.

Our ICIJ members around the world help us to find the media organizations we eventually publish with. We also have a list of media organization that we have successfully published with in the past, although we always welcome new ones.

It was particularly hard to convince some media organizations of the value of the Secrecy for Sale project.

The data itself was very difficult to understand. It took a lot of digging by a lot of reporters to actually find stories of public interest. We also had a lot of setbacks and complications and it was not always clear that we could succeed. Cross-border collaborations are never easy.

Some media organizations simply knocked the story back. And not all of the reporters who signed onto the project found stories. That is the nature of investigative reporting – there are no guarantees at any stage of the way.

We were fortunate to have senior ICIJ members in big media organizations who believed in the project. David Leigh, the investigations editor of Britain’s Guardian newspaper, brought both his own organization and the BBC’s Panorama program into the process.

Hans Leyendecker, a senior journalist at the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, was our initial conduit for both his own newspaper and the German broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk.

How we will choose reporters and partners for the next stage of the project 

There are a few remaining reporters still finishing their work on this stage of the project. We have also been contacted by a number of media organizations in countries where we have yet to do any work. We will sift through those requests next week and draw up plans for reporting in some of those other countries. You can contact us at

We expect our work to continue throughout 2013 and possibly into 2014.

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