Category Archives: Investigative

Making sense of WikiLeaks’ document bombshell

WIKILEAKS’ latest leaks are searchable online at The Guardian in an  impressive interactive infographic/database. The Guardian also has a terrific lead story on the diplomatic cables release here.

Blogger No Right Turn has just tweeted that 1490 diplomatic cables  in the document dump originate from Wellington. This is another big moment in journalism, with The Guardian again apparently leading the way.

News of the world of tabloid hacks

VIRGINIA McMILLAN: The Guardian has led recent reporting on phone-hacking allegations against fellow British newspaper News of the World.
Nick Davies, critic of journalism practice in the book Flat Earth News, has a string of investigative and news stories on the phone-hacking scandal here.
Davies also unearths some of the thousands of names targeted by the News of the World’s private investigator.

WikiLeaks: The Guardian tackles big data

VIRGINIA McMILLAN: Staff from British newspaper The Guardian have analysed their own reporting/ethical and data analysis approaches to the massive bulk of data they received on Afghanistan via WikiLeaks.

What got The Guardian started? Investigations executive editor David Leigh writes:

What actually happened was that my Guardian colleague Nick Davies, in an inspired moment, tracked down nomadic WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in Brussels, about a month ago.

In six hours of intensive talks, Davies established three things that could never have happened before the internet age.

One, that the US army had built a huge database with six years of sensitive military intelligence material in it. Two, that many thousands of US soldiers had access to this electronic archive, and some had been able to download copies.

And three, WikiLeaks now had one copy which it proposed to publish immediately online, via a series of uncensorable global servers. READ MORE HERE.

On the nerds team, hugely important in this exercise, was Simon Rogers, who reflects for  on the unpacking of 90,000 rows of data.

Virtual newsrooms with Help Me Investigate

VIRGINIA McMILLAN: The Guardian’s media blogger, journalism lecturer Roy Greenslade, is one of many to have noted the downturn in media coverage of local government.
Last year a crowdsourcing site invited interested netizens to research the coverage in Britain. Here’s the lead journo’s summary of what they found (as at January).
The host website, Help Me Investigate, allows members to start up an investigation and invite other people on board. comments on the site’s home page: “You’re becoming part of an investigative team that’s bigger, more diverse and more skilled than any newsroom could ever be.”
Birmingham election candidates’ expenses are one topic under way and, intriguingly, the most recent project asks whether an oil spill attributed to climate-change protesters might have been a figment of police press-release imagination.

The man behind investigative journalism’s new form – WikiLeaks

JIM TUCKER/SUNDAY STAR-TIMES/GUARDIAN WEEKLY: He has been warned never to travel to America. It is said that he never spends more than two nights in one place. And why? Because he runs a little website called WikiLeaks. The Guardian’s Stephen Moss tracks down the elusive Julian Assange. READ MORE>

Soccer’s lost boys

CARL SUURMOND: Vanguard Journalism investigates the less glamorous side of football/soccer in what has been called “the new slave trade.” Young African footballers are lured to Europe illegally to chase the promises of stardom in the European football league.

Iceland comes to the rescue of hounded journos everywhere

VIRGINIA McMILLAN: Iceland is becoming the international hub of media freedom.

Icelanders were irate at at one bank’s gagging tactics on reporting its behaviour during the financial crisis. Out of this came a close bond between pro-media reformist Icelanders and WikiLeaks, which has this month led to the country’s Parliament taking a huge leap. 

A new law has been passed embracing the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, aimed at making Iceland a haven for reporting from anywhere in the world where there is threat of suppression or retaliation. As this video and update via boingboing shows, the aim is to build the world’s strongest press and whistleblower protection laws.

Stuff enlists public in search for errant spenders

VIRGINIA McMILLAN: Fairfax journalists are admitting they can’t quickly examine all the thousands of pages of ministerial spending records released last week – and they want the public’s help.

This a fantastic initiative from the Stuff team, called “crowd-sourcing” – publishing the data on the web so anyone with the time and interest can do what formerly would have been a job for the reporters only. The sheer volume of information in this case, as with the British MPs’ expense records, makes it a prohibitive exercise for a small team.

Blogger extraordinaire Danyl McLauchlan at Dim-Post considers the entire press gallery would have produced more stories, and better ones, had they divvied up the job regardless of the fact they are competitors. It is a forlorn hope. Still, he is right to suggest that picking off a few obvious targets for their early research has left us ignorant of the import of the vast majority of the information. Let’s hope the remaining, unread receipts get a decent trawling. Even using crowd-sourcing, I suspect it will be hard to know when all the material has been checked.

Reading list: Features with enduring impact

By Virginia McMillan

Generally, I hate ‘top 10s’ but here’s one to stash away and savour over time. It’s the New York University Arthur L Carter Journalism Institute’s Top Ten Works of Journalism of the Decade 2000-2009.

Several pieces are about war and terrorism (not surprisingly).

On that note, of course, the big and tragic story this week is the video decrypted and published by WikiLeaks, of US helicopter crew killing Baghdad civilians and a Reuters journalist and his helpers.

This appears to be a reminder that powerful authorities may have no compunction about lying to journalists. Here’s the BBC take on it. The 17-minute video is on the WikiLeaks front page.

Helpful hints for investigative feature writing

By Kimberley Crayton-Brown

One of the Massey  journalism teachers (James Hollings) recommended this at the Wellington Investigative Journalist Society meeting the other night.

It’s pretty “light” reading at 81 pages, but apparently is really useful if you want to write features/investigative pieces.