At the keynote event of the 2017 Global Investigative Journalism Conference, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz addresses speaks on “Media Power in a Post-Truth World.” Stiglitz is interviewed by Sheila Coronel, academic dean of the Columbia Journalism School.
Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz spoke to a room packed with investigative journalists from around the world at the #GIJC17 closing keynote address at Wits University’s Great Hall in Johannesburg about Trump, truth, inequality and the importance of investigative journalism.
The awards luncheon at the annual IRE conference featured a moving keynote address by Columbia University’s Sheila Coronel. Her speech focused on the contagious and empowering spirit of collaboration taking hold among investigative journalists worldwide.
In the past week, three stories on three very different issues showed once again how satellite images, until recently confined to the weather report, are now the stuff of front-page news. All three are important stories with wide-ranging implications on public policy. But they also raise questions about the reliability of satellite imagery as proof and the ability of journalists – and their audiences – to make sense of them. Just like photographs, satellite images without context can distort the truth. And like photography, interpreting satellite imagery is as much art as it is science.
About a third of all countries in the world now require officials to publicly disclose their assets. Institutions like the World Bank and the OECD see this as a good thing. Asset declarations, they say, are crucial tools for fighting corruption and holding officials accountable. As an investigative journalist in the Philippines, I found asset statements vital to digging into conflicts of interest and the illegal accumulation of wealth by those in public office. But pushback on official disclosures is coming from an unlikely quarter.
One of the bright spots in investigative journalism over the past decade has been the rapid spread of nonprofits dedicated to supporting in-depth journalism around the world. A 2012 survey by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) identified 106 investigative journalism nonprofits in nearly 50 countries – with more than half of them founded in the past five years. The list includes nonprofit newsrooms, online publishers, professional associations, grant-making funds, NGOs, training institutes, and academic centers. About half are based in the United States, where the hollowing out of traditional media has sparked the founding of dozens of these nonprofit newsrooms at the state and local level. Moreover, the trend does not appear to be abating.
Can the worst of times for media and political freedoms in post-Soviet Russia also be the best of times for watchdog reporting? Elizaveta Osetinskyaya, the editor of Forbes Russia, the most prominent business magazine in that country, seemed to think so. It’s a paradox, she said. The Russian media is confronting some of the most formidable political and financial challenges it has faced since the fall of communism. Yet she thinks investigative reporting has never been more vibrant nor its quality better.
Around the world, many governments are proposing painful solutions to the problem of public debt and imposing heavier tax burdens on citizens. As government services are cut because public coffers are bare, public attention is shifting to the taxes paid – or not paid – by the wealthy and the privileged.