Nonprofits Investigate Profits

Author:Andreas Adriano
Position:ANDREAS ADRIANO is a senior communications officer in the IMF's Communications Department.

Investigative journalists play a key role in bringing corruption to light

38 FINANCE & DEVELOPMENT | September 2019
Published in April 2016, the Panama Papers
revealed a large, complex, and very well-hidden
corner of the global economy. e scandal resulted
in the resignations of prime ministers and senior
ocials from Iceland to Mongolia.
From the Pentagon to Panama, with other major
discoveries in between, invest igative journalism has
made major contributions in bringing to light what
some would rather keep in the dark. But it ha s been
a bumpy ride: while there are more areas to i nves-
tigate, there are fewer outlets to publish t he results.
e carnage of the traditional media around the
world has been well documented. Accordi ng to one
study, 1,800 local newspapers have disappea red in
the United States alone since 2004. e internet
and other technologies oer new platforms, but
they have muddied the waters too. Many disc over-
ies are now the product of hacking —as opposed to
an insider acting out of conscience —which raises
ethical and legal questions.
Charles (known by ma ny as “Chuck”) Lewis has
seen the highs and lows of investig ative journalism
throughout his career. From Senate intern during
the Watergate scandal to a stint with t he legendary
Carl Bernstein at the A BC television network, he
eventually beca me a senior investigative producer
for CBS’s 60 Minutes. He quit the show in 1989
and founded the Center for Public Integrity. Years
later, he founded the ICIJ.
Lewis helped found a few of the over 200 non-
prot news organizations active in the United
States. Now a journalism professor and exe cutive
editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at
American University in Washing ton, DC, Lewis
sat down with FD’s Andreas Adriano to talk
about investigating na ncial issues, t he bleak
outlook for news organizations, a nd the ethical
implications of hackers as the new w histle-blowers.
Local new spapers are all but ext inct now. How
does their di sappearance a ect investigation at
the local le vel?
I started in the sport s department of the Wilmington
News-Journal newsroom in Delaware in the early
1970s. It was one of the best of the small and mid-
size papers. But everyt hing went to hell. ey went
from 187 people to around 35 now. e number
of reporters today is the same as in 1972, while
the federal budget increa sed nearly twentyfold.
Tens of thousands of journalists lost their jobs in
the United States. Most laws here are passed at t he
Investigative journalists play a key role in bringing
corruption to light
Andreas Adriano
n 1971, whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg discovered the so-ca lled
Pentagon Papers and spent countless nights photocopying over
7,000 pages before delivering them to the New York Times and the
Washington Post. Four decades later, when an anonymous source g ave
German journali st Bastian Obermayer a ash drive with 11 million
les taken from a Pana manian law rm, detailing shady dealings and
tax avoidance schemes us ed by the rich and powerful, it was too much
for even his entire newsroom to process. Obermayer asked for help
from the International Consortium of Inves tigative Journalists (ICIJ),
mobilizing 250 reporters in 90 countries.

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