Panama Papers Case Analyzed in Depth as Part of the "Future of Journalism" Series

June 07, 2018

Marina Walker, who directed the Pulitzer Prize-winning Panama Papers journalistic investigation, visited Chile in May for two days of workshops, lectures and press appearances. The visit was part of the "Future of Journalism", an ongoing event series co-hosted by the Global Center|Santiago, the Journalism School at Universidad Diego Portales (UDP) and Columbia Journalism School.

Walker is deputy director at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the network of journalists and reporters that for the past several years has published investigations into offshore tax havens and illicit money flows, among other topics. Her master class at the Nicanor Parra library at UDP was entitled "Panama Papers: How we Accomplished the Largest Journalistic Collaboration in History".

Walker was introduced by Francisca Skoknic, an ICIJ collaborator, Columbia alumna and the director of the UDP’s Journalism School.

The Panama Papers investigation exposed offshore companies linked to more than 140 politicians in more than 50 countries. It was based on a massive leak of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The leak totaled 2.6 terabytes, dwarfing the size of all prior document leaks. The size of the revelations, plus the number of journalists and countries involved, 376 and 80, respectively, and the power of the subjects of the investigation, required new techniques and methodologies, she explained.

She told the audience, most of them students, to challenge the individualism and information-hoarding of past journalistic successes. "Take the risk to share", she advised. "The only way to do justice to the data is bring together journalists so that they can find the stories." Embrace information sharing, seek out open sources, use technology, seek efficiency and have a global impact, she said.

Collaborative journalism has certain rules, she explained. Sharing of information is an obligation, as is total confidentiality. Publication occurs all at the same time, but editorial independence is expected and so is the legal responsibility for publication. The goal of this type of journalism is not just to expose perpetrators of illegal or corrupt activities, but to unravel and expose the systems that allow these people, companies and governments to thrive. A conservative estimate of the amount recovered by governments as a result of the ICIJ investigations reached nearly US$ 750 million.

Walker also discussed the importance of machine learning and crowd-funding in this type of journalism.

Walker began her visit to Chile with breakfast with alumni of Columbia Journalism School and renowned local practitioners. After the master class, she met with professors at UDP. The following day, she held a workshop on collaborative journalism and had lunch with Chilean women journalists.


You can listen to her interviews (in Spanish) in the following links:


- Tele13 Radio:  Here 

- Radio Cooperativa:  Here

- You can watch her master class (in Spanish)  Here

- Photos: Here