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Collaborative highlights of 2019 – that aren’t journalism

We love collaboration - and not just in reporting. So, as 2020 begins, we wanted to reflect back on our favorite non-journalism collaborations of 2019.

Collaborate: to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor

Collaboration has become a buzzword in journalism. As an ICIJ reader, you might have seen how it can help with legal problems, help tell important global stories, bring together competitors, re-empower journalists, turn stubborn reporters into sharers, and how it has changed the way we work.

Collaboration is at the heart of how we – ICIJ – define ourselves.

But we’re not so arrogant to think reporters and data wizards were the first to realize the power of collaboration. So, as we barrel headfirst into 2020, we decided to reflect back upon the non-journalism collaborations of 2019 – and how they helped change the world (or at least brought a smile to our faces).

If we missed something, let us know – tweet using the hashtag #collaboration and tag ICIJ. If we get enough submissions, we can put together a reader’s list too. You can also email if that’s easier.

Photographing ‘the impossible’

Marina Walker Guevara, director of strategic initiatives and network

In 2019 scientists showed how tasks considered impossible can be accomplished with creativity and cooperation. Photographing a black hole was one of those endeavors because scientists would have needed a telescope the size of the Earth. So instead, 200 scientists joined forces and created a network (get the ICIJ connection?) of synchronized radio telescopes that were set to focus on the same object at the same time and “act as a giant virtual telescope.” The more telescopes involved, the sharper the image. Check out the result:

NASA black hole
Scientists obtained the first image of a black hole, using Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87. Image: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration via NASA


Will Fitzgibbon, reporter and Africa partnership coordinator

Best non-journalism collaborations? Definitely “Faith,” the electronic dance song featuring Galantis and Dolly Parton (who doesn’t want to see Dolly driving a bus?) With, as a close second, “Higher Love“, a posthumously-produced and released Whitney Houston collaboration with Kygo.

Using manga to tell a Uighur story

Scilla Alecci, reporter and Asia partnership coordinator

A manga comic by Japanese artist Tomomi Shimizu tells the real story of a Uighur woman who was detained and tortured in China after giving birth abroad. Read it here.

Uighur comic strip
“What has happened to me?” is a manga-style retelling of a Uighur woman’s story.

Survival strategies for women muckrakers

Margot Williams, researcher and fact-checker

My collaboration moment was at the Global Investigative Journalism Network’s conference in Hamburg on ‘Survival strategies for women muckrakers’ with reporters Martha Mendoza, Patricia Evangelista, Minna Knus-Galan, Marcela Turati, Miranda Patrucic, Juliane Löffler, Shiori Ito, Oriana Zill, Sheila Coronel, Asha Mwilu, and Alejandra Xanic.

The diversity of the group, by region, age, experience, was awesome. The courage of each one of them in relating personal experiences, how the bad stuff was handled by them so bravely, and the depth of the emotions were communicated throughout the entire packed room, which also included men. It was not a “Me Too” convocation but a deep sharing. There were tears, and laughter too. Kudos to Sheila Coronel for moderating this intense event. Watch the panel[Editor’s note: I realize this is technically about journalism, but it’s also about the fearless women who work so hard… more so than the actual *act* of journalism, so we’ve included it here!]

Gary, Keith and Ron – a baseball collaboration

Sasha Chavkin, reporter

What Woodward and Bernstein represent for American investigative journalism, New York Mets broadcast team Gary, Keith and Ron are to baseball announcers. Gary Cohen calls the plays and is the master of Mets history and trivia. Keith Hernandez, the mustachioed former batting star, provides the offbeat stories. And former pitcher Ron Darling is the cerebral analyst who breaks down the strategy. Together, they are simply the best in the game, a trio of zany, affable uncles who can make even the most heartbreaking Mets season fly by. Watch this home run call. Tell me you’re not excited.

Diary of a song ‘Con Altura’

Mago Torres, researcher

I am not a crazy fan of the song by Rosalía and J Balvin, but I like how they talk about the creative process (even the mention of a partnership that didn’t work out).

Free-range eggs

Douglas Dalby, reporter

It may not seem revolutionary to ask people what they want and produce it at a fair price but one such collaboration is taking France by storm.

Last January, C’est qui le patron?! (Who’s the boss?!), launched its latest product: free-range eggs. In just a few months, it emulated the success of CQLP’s organic butter as the top-selling brand in France, despite being more expensive than its competitors.

The process is simple. A producer describes his product online, listing its inputs – place, methods of production, packaging etc – and suggests a price that will give him a decent return. Consumers vote on whether they would buy it.

Since it launched with milk in November 2016, its range now includes everything from wine to chocolate; apple juice to pizzas.

For years, supermarket chains have been using their financial muscle to squeeze producers. CQLP might just force a rethink of the dogma that consumers care only about buying cheap.

Pro football dance

Ben Hallman, chief reporter

How about the little-heralded intersection between pro football and coordinated dance routines? That’s right, we are talking about the Seattle Seahawks receiving corps, whose end zone celebrations often top the touchdowns that prompt them. Here’s the crew busting moves to New Edition after a score in a recent game. Watch it:

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