Last week, ICIJ and the Australian journalism nonprofit The Global Mail announced the selection of Will Fitzgibbon as their first Investigative Journalism Fellow. The selection kicks off a yearly fellowship which will send Australian journalists to Washington DC to report and learn cross-border investigative skills with ICIJ.
Fitzgibbon will join ICIJ for ten months starting in January 2014 to carry out an international investigative project, followed by two months in Australia with The Global Mail. The project’s subject matter will be revealed upon its publication by ICIJ and its partners.
“The issues that affect people are more and more transnational,” said ICIJ director Gerard Ryle, in an announcement of Fitzgibbon’s selection. “It is important for Australian journalists to learn to tackle stories on a global level. That is what this fellowship is aimed at doing.”
The program is funded through a gift by the Australian philanthropist and businessman Graeme Wood, who earlier this year donated $1.5 million to support ICIJ’s global investigative reporting. ICIJ eventually hopes to find sponsors to expand the fellowship to include journalists from other countries as well.
Fitzgibbon comes to ICIJ from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, where he is currently working after stints with the German Development Agency in Madagascar and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in Australia. His work for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has appeared in outlets including The Guardian and the Observer.
ICIJ looks forward to welcoming Fitzgibbon in January, and we caught up with him this week to discuss the fellowship. Here is our conversation with our newest colleague:
What are some of the topics you have investigated before, and what was one of your most interesting findings?
I've worked on investigations into European regulation of the high frequency trading industry, mining and the extractive industries in Congo and Madagascar, and the UK's affordable housing crisis.
One of the most interesting – and shocking — findings was just how regularly and easily low-cost homes for thousands of UK residents were scrapped through opaque political negotiations. It turns out that some developers were, and are, using complex, disputed financial analyses hidden from the public eye to persuade local politicians to drop low-cost homes.
What are your main goals for the ICIJ fellowship?
My main goal for the fellowship is to harness the ICIJ and The Global Mail's impressive collective skill set in investigative journalism as well as in data analysis and final production. Of course it will be a great learning experience for me, but more importantly, I hope to shine a light on an underreported area of global trade and development. I can’t reveal the subject of my investigation yet, but keep reading ICIJ next year and I look forward to getting the story out.
As a reporter who has worked in Australia (and Britain), why did you apply for a fellowship in Washington DC?
I applied for the fellowship because opportunities of this kind as rare as hen's teeth. As Australia readies to host the G20 next year with a focus on tax avoidance, it's perfect timing for an Aussie to be in Washington as the ICIJ's Offshore Leaks investigation continues to make its mark globally. Through its in-house experts and international network, the ICIJ provides a unique opportunity to develop my own skills and deliver something of significant public interest.
I'm also quite looking forward to the bagels.
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