Charles Lewis, American University

Accountability Information, Across Borders

This paper explores the efficacy and potential of increased journalistic and academic data, research and reporting collaboration, in the context of credible, accountability information. Investigative journalists throughout the world understandably cherish their independent “watchdog” function.

Professional news organizations and individual journalists traditionally have not been particularly collaborative with scholars in the academic community (beyond perfunctorily quoting them in their stories), even though their interests, expertise, research and writing are often about quite similar subject matter. And of course, at the same time, the university milieu, the “academy,” has seemed distant and disengaged from civic life and current events issues because, too often, it is.

Cultural differences in Indian journalism

Indian media like the nation itself has diverse cultures. While small and upcoming media outlets in two-tier areas aim to dig deep into issues such as illegal land acquisition, or a fake exam scam, large and thriving companies backed with heavy investments focus on infotainment. The latter, governed by corporate conglomeration and political interference is possibly stifling the social responsibility of Indian journalism.

The larger sector of media companies has also turned into media training, which is now a profit-driven model for the companies. These are expensive courses, which may not be affordable for someone who is really committed towards attaining a career in journalism and belonging to a lower economic background. They are forced to learn on the job but in the process may be restricted to reporting and writing while lacking social media or digital skills such as data mining or conceptualizing new forms of story telling. These journalists do not constitute to the middle and upper class. Interestingly, the big companies are turning into local languages.

Despite these challenges Indian media has the potential to put its foot in the world. Innovation is the key. The government has been recently working on a national level programme called Digital India that aims to connect about 2,50,000 villages in India through Optical Fibre network. Such innovations have to go hand in hand with policy making. Process of bringing a Policy into action is such a time consuming event as of now in the country. Once the sync is established, the diverse cultures in India can be bridged. This venture could revive the current state of weakened professional journalism in the country.

The paper attempts to focus on these cultural differences that need a closer scrutiny under current circumstances.

African-Western cooperation in investigative journalism

‘Do-gooderism’ as a cultural challenge

The AIPC’s goal is to table African investigative journalism on international platforms. ZAM wants to be an enabler for this mission. It does this by ‘translating’ the work of African colleagues to fit with international – ‘Western’- media preferences re length, style and angles. This does not always go well.

We find that there are ‘taboo’ subjects in the West. AIPC stories have been refused by Western media for reasons from ‘that is racist’ (about a mention of witchcraft) to objection about the exposure of a quack abortion doctor in Ghana ‘because we must legalise abortion.’

This cultural challenge can be called ‘do-gooderism.’ Do-gooderism sees helpless trafficking victims instead of migrating sex workers. It sees happy noble primitives living side by side by gorillas in Virunga, instead of farmers angry at the environmental ‘protectors’ who fence off their lands. Do-gooderism blames local people for the failure of development projects, but blames (or praises) Shell for everything that happens in the Niger Delta. Do-gooderism never questions ‘fair trade’.

It is difficult for a ‘Western’ journalist to find truths hidden under the layers of dominant narratives about Africa. (Also, Africans have 300 years of experience in telling white people what these want to hear.)

We have developed a process for African and Western colleagues to overcome this cross-cultural challenge together. It rests on five pillars:

Two sides are real investigative journalists (not working for politicians or NGOs)
The media house is ready to accept (very) new investigative findings
There is intensive dialogue throughout (one of the partners knows the stuff, the other knows the audience)
The media houses’ needs re length, style, angle are clear
Both sides co-create the story.
This paper was written for the Global Investigative Journalism Conference held in Lillehammer, Norway, in October 2015 as part of the academic track.

Fresh challenges for media in the youngest state in India

In India, the largest democracy in the world, a direct and stringent media censorship by the state is nearly impossible. Thousands of newspapers, magazines, TV channels and radio stations in the country reflect the diverse views in the absence of a draconian media law. However, media in India’s newly formed state Telangana is facing an unprecedented challenge from the government, which has started an implicit censoring of the information against the state. Direct threats, defamation suits, blocking television channels with the help of cable network service providers, and even propaganda against media houses using state mechanisms are the methods used by the government.

Only a year after the state was formed, a major TV network’s chief editor was arrested and several legal suits were filed against two TV channels for airing a news bulletin with a satirical bent on the new government’s policies. Despite widespread protests by the journalists and favourable orders by the Telecom Tribunal, the oppression went on. All media houses have succumbed to the fear now. None of them dares to run critical stories against the establishment today.

This paper looks at how the new state, which was formed after over half-a-century of struggle by the economically-deprived people of the region, finds media as an enemy of its progress. It also explores the way government exploited regional feelings of the masses and turned them against the media by skewing ‘media versus government’ as ‘media versus region’. This study throws lights on the impact of such curbs on the fourth pillar of democracy thereby hindering the democratic process and state’s development. It also looks at how free speech is blatantly compromised, and what would be the future of media in the state.

Apart from a few news items and opinion pieces, this issue has not been thoroughly analysed by scholars so far. This study can produce a fresh and objective perspective on the issue through comprehensive analysis.

The series incidents of media curb, existing media laws, activities of media regulatory bodies, opinion from experts, and interviews with media houses will be used as source material.

Being a Journalist / Citizen in Central America in 2015

Since March 2015, waves of protest have spread in almost all the Northern Triangle countries in Central America: Guatemala and Honduras. Corruption cases have ignited massive protests in what also happens to be one of the most violent regions of the world[1].

Several UN reports agreed that little progress in ending impunity has been made in those countries. In Honduras, less than 10% of all the crimes reach court[2]. Major corruption cases like the theft of more than $100 million of the public social security system, pushed thousands of people in Tegucigalpa to carry torches at dusk demanding the President´s resignation[3].

Unsurprisingly, these countries are among the most dangerous in the world for journalists[4], with the same pattern of impunity. Corruption and impunity, organized crime and drug trafficking groups have created a very hostile environment for the media and for society as a whole.

In early July, protestors and hunger strikers were kicked out violently from the Presidential house surroundings. News of the events were all over Facebook and Twitter, although the largest newspaper in the country didn´t mentioned a thing, suggesting a totally biased, one-sided news and government controlled information.

This paper aims to identify the opportunities in the current context for digital journalism, networking and collaborative opportunities to increase political accountability in Central America. Based on the fact that Citizen journalism in the digital world is emerging in a region with enormous gaps in the digital literacy.

Let the News Games Begin: From Data to Stories to Games

Data journalism projects involve vast amounts of information. The available material is usually edited and published in the form of (interactive) graphics, commentaries, or, quite rarely parallactic reports or one pagers. Since the conception and development of interactive stories is usually too complex, a lot of material, and data resources remain unused.

Editorial games still represent a scarcely used means for the editing of journalistic data. In its role as democratic apparatus and supporter of political education, journalism has the responsibility and the power to bring knowledge to the people. Complexity and high frequency of news publications often leave recipients overwhelmed. But complexity overload does not just pertain to adolescent audiences. The steady decrease of election turnouts and vague dissatisfaction upheavals reflect profound difficulties in the wider population.

Data-Journalism has the potential to strengthen democracy, if it focuses on editing informational material in a very educational, coherent and barrier-free way.

The mechanisms working behind the popularity of games can support this endeavor. A growing number of publications on the subject of news games affirm the usefulness of game-mechanics in journalism.

The production of editorial games is still complex. The journalistic debate is often concerned with full-blown games although game-mechanisms are very useful in other formats of long form storytelling – for example in parallactic formats, app-interactions and scenarios. The research project aims at broadening the focus by drawing on insights from research on immersive storytelling to develop a framework for the production of game- and scenario-based data journalism formats. The developed framework will facilitate a simple, self-explanatory transformation of complex news data into coherent and readily understandable game content.

Research crowdfunding as quality setting for investigative science journalism

Crowdfunding of research, including called-for co-funding of investigative journalistic research, has met with difficulties and related skepticism in the crowdfunding industry. With the joint investigative scientific–journalistic platform initiative presented here, Baker St. Crowdfunding - named after both its Copenhagen street of foundation Bagerstræde (Baker St.) and its famous London namesake - we suggest to address this seeming challenge using a vision of quality through investigative techniques.

The platform would feature two both important and distinctive traits: (1) allowing for keeping donors anonymous with journalist users, and (2) investigative science journalism (ISJ) substituting for academia and academic peer within both project review and practice. We discuss the manner in which this possibility has been treated in the literature on academic-publishing review and quality, and suggest to try it this way in our test-bed area of research funding: crowdfunding.

Also the underlying rationale is two-fold: (1) ISJ meeting with growing interest, and (2), the way institutional science communication (or knowledge brokering) between scientists and public sectors, as part of addressing public understanding of science, itself opts for dialogue and engagement in relation to not only policy, but also standards of knowledge production. In connection with this, it is suggested that also knowledge brokering, being widely unchecked investigation-wise, could come to face increasingly, in ISJ, due counterbalance and, plausibly, substitution.

Finally ISJ, now forming a minor overlapping area between the two major realms of research: academic science and general investigative journalism, might also be expected, with the initiative, to inspire and expand into both these neighboring areas by way of example. Here it is hoped the field of ISJ would consider the setting as one where it could contribute and develop accordingly.

Investigative Reporting: Chances and the challenges in Srilankan society

Investigative reporting is also belief in the watchdog role of the media.It is also focused on the accountability of institutions and individuals wielding power .It’s the journalism of outrage: belief in the power of the media to catalyze reforms. Investigative reporting is a process: Working from the outside in most often, investigative reporting involves investigating wrong doing by individuals or institutions.

In this research paper the researcher tries to analyze the reason for lack of investigative reporting in Srilanka especially in Jaffna region.The objective of this research is to find out the practical difficulties in the reporting of investigative issues in the Srilankan Tamil media, especially in Jaffna region.In Jaffna there are almost three regional newspapers are coming and many numbers of magazine publications also coming.

Apart from many radio stations, including online radio as well as a television station are also there. Even though it has a huge history in the history of media publication, investigative reporting is none of the media outlets. Internal conflict made the media suppressed to publish these types of reporting, but after the ending of the war, the space for investigative reporting is none in the media space.This research analyzes the challenges and the struggle following by the media industry in Srilanka especially at Jaffna.

Based on qualitative in depth formal interview with the editors and the senior journalist as well as junior journalist this research tries to find out the practical problems of reporting investigative issues and tries to overcome those challenges. Content analysis of the media coverage also taken as secondary data for this research. Findings indicate the reality of the political situation in Srilanka and the social and cultural barriers also influences for the lack of investigative reporting in Srianka.

Attitudes and Trends in investigative reporting in the Republic of Cyprus

Cyprus journalism has been for years described as non-combative, non-partisan and had rarely strayed on the levels of investigative reporting. In the past three years, under the pressure of the severe economic crisis the island faced, a form of investigative reporting, mainly restricted to revealing financial misappropriation has been seen to emerge. Leading role here is played by the newspapers, whereas TV and Broadcasting and any on-line media are lacking far behind. This appears to be happening, despite a decrease in circulation for daily and weekly newspapers.

In this paper we will debate these manifestations and any other trends in investigative reporting in Cyprus, if and how investigative reporting is influenced or even instigated by politics and politicians, its appeal to the general public and the impact it seems to have on the agenda setting of the political scene, whilst at the same time we shall attempt to highlight any limitations posed by the dominant political culture in the land.

An empirical part will be also presented, outlining the beliefs of editors and journalists on the matter of investigative journalism.

Data Journalism in China

China is no longer the subject of data journalism, but also the source of it. Increasingly, China’s reporters are the practitioners of data journalism. Although data journalism in China is as flourishing as it is in western world. There are many differences between them. This article aims to create a snapshot of the structure, process, incentives, resources and publications of the Chinese data-journalism teams. The goal is to figure out the characteristics of Chinese data journalism, and to find the key shaping reasons.

We select 10 most influential data-journalism teams in China as the research objects. Our findings are based on quantitative and qualitative research. We did observations, interviews and email exchanges with leaders and members of the teams. We analyzed the topics and data sources of the data news that they produced (from founded to May, 2015). Online sources including academic papers, news articles, conference presentations and blog post for research on data-journalism production, additional examples of data-journalism teams, and data-journalism stories that have an impact.

We found data journalism in China has following characteristics:

There are five typical data journalism production patterns in China. CCTV, Caixin, The Papers, Polidata, and DDML are the typical representatives.
Data-journalism teams in China pay more attention on visualization than on data. Most teams do not have members with statistics background.
Data news mostly focused on social and economical phenomena. Social data news tended to be relaxed and funny. Political data news referred to case studies.
Government and technology companies are the main data sources.
Media forms, government regulation, producer’s benefit distribution,process of data openness shape the characters of the data journalism in China.