Maidan 2

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.

Image via Bellingcat

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.


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.


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.


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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My Data Is Dirty! Basic Spreadsheet Cleaning Functions

In an extract from his book Finding Stories with Spreadsheets Paul Bradshaw explains how to use basic cleaning functions in spreadsheets to make it easier to combine data, including a case study where the same functions were used to speed up a research process for a story.

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Follow the Money: How Open Data and Investigative Journalism Can Beat Corruption

Alongside the advantages available for criminals of operating on a global scale, making it harder to track them down, there are also disadvantages that the clever journalist or law enforcement official can exploit to expose them. How do we do this? Firstly, through data: more data means more transparency, provided the quality of information is there and supported by tools that allow proper analysis. Secondly, by journalists using advanced techniques.

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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.


The People and the Technology Behind the Panama Papers

The trove of files that make up the Panama Papers is likely the largest dataset of leaked insider information in the history of journalism. For ICIJ’s Data and Research Unit, it offered a unique set of challenges. The overall size of the data (2.6 terabytes, 11.5 million files), the variety of file types (from spreadsheets, emails and PDFs to obscure and old formats no longer in use), and the logistics of making it all securely searchable for more than 370 journalists around the world are just a few of the hurdles faced over the course of the 12 month investigation.