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FOI Requests in 11 Countries: Implementation Is Key

With freedom of information statutes in over 100 countries today, the laws have become a key tool for journalists from India to Mexico. But their success depends on how they’re used and implemented, as Swiss scholar Vincent Mabillard explores in his recent paper, Freedom of Information Laws: Evolution of the Number of Requests in 11 Jurisdictions. We are pleased to present highlights from his paper from the University of Lausanne.

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What Makes Governments Resistant to Coups? Transparency.

The relationship between transparency and political stability in democracies is simple: More transparency means more stable democratic rule. As transparency rises, democratically elected leaders are less likely to be ousted through extra-constitutional methods like a coup. In non-democracies the situation is more complicated. But greater transparency still means fewer coups.

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Getting Started in Online, Open-Source Investigations

At First Draft, we frequently receive emails from a whole range of people asking how they can start doing the sort of online open-source investigation and verification that they’ve seen us doing. The skills and methodologies used are all something that can be learnt through a little persistence, but here are a few pieces of advice to get you started.

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New Tools Open Up Virtual Reality to Journalists

When Gustavo Cerati, a legendary Argentinian musician and songwriter, was asked to share his best advice for new musicians, he refused—saying instead that “experiences are not transferable.” You may agree or may not with his statement, but if you’ve ever worn an Oculus Rift or a similar virtual reality (VR) headset, you’ll know we are getting closer and closer to transferable experiences.

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When Virtual Reality Meets Data Journalism

Isn’t the best journalism always immersive? Whether it’s Walter Kronkite’s journalistic take on history “You are There” from the 1950s or Declan Walsh’s mobile phone reporting from Syria in June, the best journalism makes you feel like you are part of the story. You care what happens. Virtual Reality is a powerful tool in making journalism more immersive to its readers and increasingly it’s becoming an essential part of the journalist’s toolkit. There are great examples of reporters using VR, such as the work of VR pioneer Nonny de la Peña, The Guardian’s 6×9 exploration of solitary confinement, or the Berliner Morgenpost’s exploration of life as a refugee.

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A Poor Journalist’s Text-Mining Toolkit

How can you search and analyze collections of documents on your own computers with simple tools? At DataHarvest, Robert Gebeloff and I ran a workshop to answer that question. As people were seemed interested, here’s a write-up of the two key tools we worked with: Apache Tika for content extraction and regular expressions in Sublime Text as an advanced search tool.

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Inside “Empire of Ashes”: Exposing Paraguay’s President as a Smuggler

Mauri König is a Brazilian investigative reporter. Last October, at the Global Investigative Conference in Lillehammer, König shared first place in the Global Shining Light Awards for his investigation “Empire of Ashes” on tobacco smuggling in Latin America. In this interview, Konig shares his views on what it’s like to uncover illicit interests involving the president of a country while working in a highly dangerous environment.