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Common Ground—Nieman Reports, Our Conference

The articles in this issue spotlight the challenges independent and investigative reporters and editors confront as they hold those in power accountable.

By Brant Houston

Welcome to “Shattering Barriers to Reveal Corruption,” a special edition of Nieman Reports published for those attending the 7th Global Investigative Journalism Conference (GIJC). These stories appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Nieman Reports, a quarterly magazine published by the Download this special conference edition as a PDF. [17 MB]Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Each is available on the Nieman Reports website,, and the entire Spring 2011 issue is available as a PDF.These first-person accounts speak to the range of challenges that independent and investigative journalists confront in holding the powerful accountable. The strategies that these reporters use, the barriers they encounter, and the consequences they endure as they investigate pervasive corruption in government and business form the spine of their stories. Journalists speaking at the conference authored many of the stories. What follows is a roadmap routed through the common ground of topics being addressed at GIJC and the journalists who wrote about them for Nieman Reports:

  • In “Abandoning a Broken Model of Journalism,” Stefan Candea, a 2011 Nieman Fellow, chronicled how his frustration with news operations in Romania led him and others to establish the Romanian Center for Investigative Journalism. In Kiev, he engages in discussions about undercover reporting and the use of networks to find partners and information.
  • Alexei Navalny, a popular blogger and anti-corruption campaigner, is the coauthor of “Russian Journalists Need Help in Exposing Corruption,” a call for Western journalists to follow the money. In Kiev, he talks about how to use crowdsourcing to track and expose corruption.
  • Alain Lallemand, a senior investigative reporter at Le Soir in Brussels, wrote “The Challenge: Investigating ‘Russian’ Mafias in a Time of Twitter.” In Kiev, he brings his extensive experience to a panel discussion about transnational investigations of oligarchs and mafia in Eastern Europe.
  • Drew Sullivan, founder of the Sarajevo-based Center for Investigative Reporting and cofounder of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, joins Lallemand for a panel discussion about cocaine trafficking and heroin smuggling. In “Where Western Perceptions Clash With Eastern European Realities,” Sullivan wrote about training investigative reporters in Sarajevo; in Kiev, he talks about transnational investigations.
  • In “Libel Laws Pose Obstacles to Ukraine’s Investigative Journalists,” Vlad Lavrov, an investigative reporter for Ukraine’s Kyiv Post, examined the chilling effect that the threat of lawsuits has on the work of reporters. In Kiev, he focuses on coverage of offshore crime.
  • Henrik Kaufholz, who was instrumental in creating Scoop and launching GIJC, wrote about efforts to support and fund journalists with stories to tell but few resources to do so in “An Idea Born Out of Necessity—And It Works!” In Kiev, he moderates “What Now?” and introduces a new network for Russian-speaking journalists.
  • Brigitte Alfter, a co-founder of Scoop, the Wobbing network, and the European Fund for Investigative Journalism, authored “The Challenge of Cross-Border Reporting in Europe.” In Kiev, she coordinates international networking among journalists and addresses issues of access to data.
  • In “Investigating Farm Subsidies on a Global Stage,” Danish journalist Nils Mulvad explained how a number of European journalists collaborated to uncover fraud and the misuse of funds in a reporting project that relied on databases and freedom of information requests. In Kiev, he joins other computer-assisted reporting experts in sharing information about database analysis and offers hands-on training.

In 1947, when the Nieman class founded Nieman Reports as a national forum for serious discussion about journalism, the 12 Nieman fellows—all newspapermen—were American. Today, double that number—men and women, with an equal number of U.S. and international journalists—come to Harvard University each year as Nieman Fellows. Broadcast, print and online reporters and editors, along with photojournalists, documentary filmmakers, and cartoonists are welcome to apply. Information about Nieman fellowships is on the final page of this issue.

Brant Houston holds the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting in the journalism department in the College of Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For a decade he served as the executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors. In Kiev, he’ll speak about new digital tools for investigative journalism, promising partnerships among journalists and programmers who work with data, and where resources for digital investigative journalism can be found.

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