What We’re Reading: The Ukrainian Investigative Journalists Who Helped Light the Trump Impeachment Fuse

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This week’s Friday 5, where we round up our favorite reads from around the online world in English each week, includes the backstory to America’s Ukraine scandal, how journalists are using defamation laws to protect themselves against online harassment, and a new free tool that could help reporters spot doctored photographs.

The Story of the Ukraine Scandal Begins With Documents Dumped in a River (Mother Jones)

When a group of journalists — including GIJN board member Oleg Khomenok — salvaged 25,000 documents from the river, scanned every page, and posted them on a website called YanukovychLeaks, they had no idea their work would trigger a series of revelations that would reverberate into American politics. (Our very own GIJN Russian editor Olga Simanovych was there, too, but she says she only helped dry documents and scan them.) The papers had been dumped in the river by the fleeing associates of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who had already decamped for Russia, leaving behind a 350-acre, $1 billion compound. Mark Schapiro tells the backstory to the investigation which, he notes, could not have been told without the tenacity and courage of Ukrainian investigative journalists.

A Surprising Defense Against Cyber Harassment (CJR)

This piece by Anya Schiffrin, an expert on media sustainability in the Global South and media trust around the world, reports on how journalists in Finland, France, Peru, and South Africa are using defamation laws to protect themselves against online harassment. Schiffrin notes the recent case in South Africa, involving journalists Anton Harber (who is on GIJN’s board) and Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki, in which a judge ruled that a political party and its spokesperson must apologize for calling them spies. Also mentioned is Peruvian investigative journalist Gustavo Gorriti. He has several cases underway after being targeted for harassment following his reporting on Lava Jato, or Operation Car Wash.

Jigsaw, a company that develops cutting-edge tech and is owned by Google’s parent company, unveiled a free tool that could help journalists spot doctored photographs. The company said it was testing the tool, called Assembler, with more than a dozen news and fact-checking organizations that include Mexico’s Animal Politico, Agence France-Presse, and the Philippines’ Rappler, a GIJN member. It does not plan to offer the tool to the public. The tool, along with a new interactive platform showing coordinated disinformation campaigns from around the world over the past decade, was announced on Jigsaw’s new publication The Current, which intends to “explore digital threats and solutions.”

Testing Behind the Story Cards (Center for Media Engagement)

Last year, the US media company McClatchy introduced the “Behind the Story” card. The feature made it easy for journalists to embed transparency into their online stories. With it, reporters and editors explained who they are, how they do their work, and why they do it.  In a recent study, the Center for Media Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin found most readers said that the card would increase their trust in a news organization. The trick was making sure that the card and the information in it was clearly visible.

Publishers Are Growing Audiences by Producing Less Content (Digiday)

The Guardian, The Times of London and Le Monde have trimmed the number of articles they publish, leading to a substantial growth in audience traffic, higher dwell times, and more subscribers. “Whether a digital magazine publishes 100, 500, or 1,000 articles makes no difference” to the reader, media analyst Thomas Baekdal told Digiday. “It’s the quality and interest of the articles that matter instead.”

Tanya Pampalone, GIJN’s managing editor, rounded up this week’s Friday 5. Tanya is the former executive editor of South Africa’s Mail & Guardian and former managing editor of Maverick (now Daily Maverick). She is a contributor to Unbias the News: Why Diversity Matters for Journalism and Southern African Muckraking: 150 Years of Investigative Journalism Which Has Shaped the Region. She is currently producing a podcast based on I Want To Go Home Forever: Stories of Becoming and Belonging in South Africa’s Great Metropolis, a book she co-edited.

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