Thursday, January 28, 2016

ProPublica pioneers investigative journalism for the digital age

PAMPLONA, Spain -- Given all the trash, half-truths and outright lies published on digital media, people are placing a higher value on media that verify information and demonstrate high ethical standards.
Paul Steiger, taking questions at U. of Navarra event

Paul Steiger, founder and executive chairman of ProPublica, tells of a major donor to his online publication who "absolutely hated" an investigative story that they had published about a group "near and dear to the donor's heart". Steiger told the donor that the information was verified, and the story was fair. "We will just have to agree to disagree," he told the donor.

The donor, who had given $100,000 every year, stopped giving. And that would have been the end of the story, except that a year later, with no explanation, the donor's annual check arrived again. Steiger's point was that even people who disagree with you still respect journalism with high standards of accuracy and ethics.

Versión en español

He made his comments to students and faculty of the University of Navarra during a series of public presentations and interviews with various media. He described some of the keys to producing effective investigative journalism even while traditional news media have been cutting back on staff and in-depth reporting. (You can see coverage of his talks, in Spanish, from ElPais, ABC, Público, ElMundo, and Infolibre, along with a Storify of Tweets in English and Spanish.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Universities are driving innovation in media

The true role of universities has always been the improvement of society. Developing leaders is a key part of that.

The scholars of universities immerse themselves in the values, ethics, culture, and history of a society and then communicate it to the students.

Those of us in the humanities tend to think of innovation as something that happens outside, in the world of business, especially in the digital world. However, courses in innovation and entrepreneurship have started to take hold in schools of communication.

Versión en español

Beyond commercialization

For academics, who seek knowledge for its own sake, there is something slightly perverse or unclean in considering their work from the point of view of its application in the business world. But innovation goes far beyond mere monetization.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Paywalls and micropayments start to gain traction

The loss of advertising and the complications of public funding are forcing digital publishers to look for ways to persuade the public to pay.

Surveys and actual market behavior show that a small percentage of digital users will pay, depending on the country, the media brand, payment systems, and technology platforms. For some publishers, that could be the difference between thriving and merely surviving.

(Versión en español)

The amounts some would be willing to pay are in the chart below, from Reuters Institute’s 2015 online survey of 24,000 users in 12 countries.

From Newman et al., Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2015 (p. 65). 
Click on chart to enlarge.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Innovative podcasts and the future of journalism

Olga Ruiz: Create something unique.
PAMPLONA, Spain -- In August of 2013, Olga Ruiz returned from a refreshing summer vacation ready to start her 16th season on the COPE radio network in Barcelona.

But on her arrival, the managers told her and her team that they were being fired. "The best period in my professional life began the moment they fired me," she told me. "They gave me a second life in journalism."

Two weeks later, she invited her old team and some other journalists to her home for dinner. They decided to launch a new radio organization with long-form stories of up to 30 minutes on topics ignored or treated superficially by mainstream media. They would devote obsessive attention to the quality of the sound.

Versión en español

Thursday, December 3, 2015

An investigative journalist leaps from print to digital



Oscar Castilla: "You have to think about the business model"
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Oscar Castilla spent 12 years at El Comercio, Peru's most important daily newspaper, honing his reporting skills with investigations of organized crime and corruption. 

Versión en español


Then in 2014, Castilla and some colleagues from the investigative unit decided to leave the paper for editorial reasons. "The editor at the time had one view of journalism and we had another," he told me in an interview. "We wanted to do some innovative things and the organization was against it."

So they decided to launch their own news publication online, Ojo Público (Public Eye). Their first investigation about conflicts of interest among the mayors in metropolitan Lima was honored in Barcelona in June with a Data Journalism Award from the Global Editors Network.

Monday, November 23, 2015

An investigative journalist who thinks like a capitalist

Martin Rodriguez Pellecer of Nomada
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- You usually don't hear an investigative journalist talk about the importance of learning business skills.

But that is the case with Martin Rodriguez Pellecer, 32, founder of two notable digital news media organizations in Guatemala, Plaza Publica and Nomada, the latter launched last year.

Versión en español

"The most difficult thing for a journalist is to think like a capitalist, to realize that you have to invest and put money on the line", he told me in an interview. "You have to be flexible; you can't wed yourself to just one thing. You have to have lots of eggs in different baskets. No successful capitalist has just one line of business; all of them have lots of businesses." 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Investigative journalists form alliance in Latin America

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The United States has been the world's biggest market for just about everything, including illegal drugs, and that creates big problems for its neighbors.

Carla Minet


Versión en español

So much money from the drug trade flows into Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean that it corrupts governments, courts, police, armed forces, trade regulators, and other institutions that were not that strong to begin with.

The result is that many of these countries are ruled, de facto, by the whims of organized crime and not in the public interest. Criminal organizations have gone global, and investigative journalists need to go global as well in order to expose this corruption and serve their communities better. 

Cross-border cooperation was the big takeaway from a three-day meeting of investigative journalists from 17 countries in San Juan, Puerto Rico, November 4-6. Billed as "The First Caribbean Meeting of Investigative Journalists: Tracking the Stories that Connect Us" (in Spanish), one aim was to create a counterweight to the power of organized crime by cooperating across borders, according to Carla Minet, executive director of the host organization, the Center of Investigative Journalism of Puerto Rico. Sponsors included the Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations.