Transforming Investigative Reporting in Latin America

Sep 252013
  • The Investigative Reporting Initiative in the Americas will cultivate a continent-wide corps of reporters equipped with the latest digital skills.

Investigative journalists across Latin America will soon be able to collaborate on cross-border stories using a secure reporting platform and the latest digital tools in a new ICFJ project.

The Investigative Reporting Initiative in the Americas is a four-year program that will promote transparency, freedom of expression and journalism safety across eight countries: Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Paraguay.

Through on-the-ground workshops on mobile, data and investigative journalism, online courses and a regional conference, the program will cultivate a continent-wide corps of reporters equipped with the latest digital skills.

"This project will expand the ability of Latin American journalists to do investigative reporting for the 21st century," said Luis Botello, ICFJ’s senior program director of special projects. "In a region where such reporting is still in its infancy, we need to create leaders in this field."

The journalists will use ICFJ's secure online platform to collaborate on projects without fear of retribution. The platform was first created for ICFJ's Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in the Balkans. Now, it will be available in Spanish for investigative reporters to work safely across time zones in a region where lethal attacks against the media have escalated.

Participants will also have access to the Investigative Dashboard (ID) platform. Soon available in Spanish, this online research and data-sharing tool provides access to a slew of databases and resources for covering organized crime and corruption. On the platform, journalists can do everything from tracking down the latest data on a fraudulent corporation to viewing video tutorials on innovative research techniques, with an assigned researcher on hand to help uncover any deeply buried statistics.

The initiative will encourage experimentation. For example, the media in Panama will form reporting units to cover the 2014 elections using new mapping technology as well as Poderopedia, a database for detecting links among political and business elites.

"By the end of this four-year project, we’ll have a new cadre of investigative reporters and institutions in Latin America that can increase transparency and accountability, which are vital to democracy,” he said.

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), this initiative builds on a National Endowment of Democracy (NED)-funded ICFJ project that brought together 20 journalists from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

To read this article in Spanish, click here.