BIRN’s Summer School Closes with Investigation Proposals

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network’s Summer School ended on Friday with the participants presenting story ideas that could be funded by the Summer School’s Investigative Story Fund.

The Summer School’s 29 participants divided into nine groups and presented ideas for investigations on which they would like to work.

The participants proposed investigations into female reproductive rights, air quality, the road industry, Balkan countries’ relations with Turkey and Hungary, illegal trading, smear campaigns and police dealings with private companies.

Each group gave a presentation of the outline of their proposed investigation and answered questions about the scale of their story, why it is important and what impact they expect.

The best three story ideas are being chosen by a jury composed of Reuters investigative editor and Summer School lead trainer Blake Morrison, BIRN’s Regional Director Marija Ristic and Investigative Editor Lawrence Marzouk, and the Executive Producer Podcasting for E.W Scripps national bureau, Susanne Reber, who was also a trainer at the Summer School.

The three ideas that are chosen will then receive funding from the Investigative Story Fund.

The ninth BIRN Summer School brought together young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Britain and the United States. For the first time, the Summer School also welcomed journalists from Moldova and Ukraine.

The Summer School is organised in cooperation with the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung, the Open Society Foundations and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of the Austrian Development Cooperation, with support from the European Union.

Investigators Must Wise up to Threats – BIRN Debate

Investigative reporters have become regular targets in Europe, as populism rises and politicians create an environment that makes violence easier, BIRN’s Summer School heard in Brasov, Romania.

Politicians in various European countries have insulted and discredited journalists, populism is on the rise, the press is vilified – and it has led to the creation of an environment in which two journalists were killed in just four months in two European Union states, Malta and Slovakia.

Czech investigative journalist Pavla Holcova and Maltese media freedom advocate Matthew Caruana Galizia spoke about this context to participants in BIRN’s Summer School of Investigative Reporting on Thursday, advising them on how to cope with security threats as investigative journalists.

“We’ve pushed the boundaries of our profession and are holding people accountable in ways that were not possible before. This brings new dangers,” Caruana Galizia explained. “As a journalist, if you’re good, you’re at greater risk,” he added.

Caruana Galizia, a former investigative journalist, witnessed his own mother’s murder in October 2017. Daphne Caruana Galizia, 50, a Maltese journalist well known for her graft investigations died after a bomb was placed under the seat in her car.

Holcova, a journalist with the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism, spent a month under police protection and had to cut communications with family and friends, after her co-worker, Slovak reporter Jan Kuciak was shot together with his fiancée at their home on February 21, 2018.

Holcova and Kuciak worked together in collaboration with the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, OCCRP, on an investigation into links between the Slovak government and Italian organized crime.

Slovak police also interrogated Holcova for eight hours and confiscated her cellphone. However, she said, the investigation hasn’t made much progress, despite pressure from the public in Slovakia.

“There is no information coming from the Slovak police. The only info we get is that the investigators are making mistakes,” she said.

She believes that investigative journalists risk their safety when pursuing a story and that they need to spot the signs of threats, such as being followed.

Galizia explained that both he and his mother were followed for months by her assassins.

“I had this feeling that my mother was being followed,” he said. “I woke up every day and told myself to check the bottom of the car. I did not check that morning,” he added.

After his mother’s murder, Galizia quit working as a journalist and focused on advocacy. He is now working on ways to protect journalists from violent attacks and on legal ways to pressurize government into respecting the freedom of the press.

“Violence against journalists right now is cheap,” he explained. “We need to raise the costs of violence against journalists.”

Holcova also said that regaining the public’s trust and support is also important for journalism.

“That’s what we should rely on. We need to explain to society that they need us, that they need the information we provide and that they need to trust the media.

“We can’t rely on international bodies, but we need to regain the trust of the public, because without us the people in power would not be accountable for their actions,” Holcova said.

BIRN Summer School Puts Focus on ‘Art of Interviews’

On the third day of the BIRN Summer School in Romania, journalists learned about interviewing techniques, how to use the Paradise Papers in investigations, verifying videos and uses of podcasts.

As BIRN’s summer school continued on Wednesday, lead trainer and Reuters investigative projects editor Blake Morrison held a session on the “art of interviewing” and on how to convince difficult sources to talk, describing interviews as a crucial component of the journalistic job.

“Think of any story as a blind date,” he told participants.

Morrison stressed the need for preparation and gave insight into why some people agree to give an interview – vanity, the need to be understood, self-interest, desperation, guilt and curiosity.

Susanne Reber, co-founder of Reveal podcast and Podcasting Executive Producer for E.W. Scripps National, introduced participants to the art of podcasting and of making stories heard.

BIRN investigations editor Lawrence Marzouk spoke of how to research the arms trade, using open source data.

The financial investigations workshop continued with OCCRP’s Miranda Patrucic explaining the Paradise Papers and how investigative journalists can find leads and data in the leaks.

The geolocation and digital investigations workshop also continued on Wednesday, with Bellingcat’s Christiaan Triebert’s lecturing on how to verify if a photo or a video was taken in a certain location at a given time.

Lead trainer Morrison held a second practical individual session with journalists.

The ninth BIRN Summer School has brought together young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, the UK, and the United States. For the first time, the Summer School has welcomed journalists from Moldova and Ukraine.

The Summer School is organised in cooperation with the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad Adenauer- Stiftung, Open Society Foundations, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, with support from the European Union.

BIRN Summer School Day 2: Fact-Checking, Financial Reports and Metadata analysis

BIRN’s Summer School continued on Tuesday in Poiana Brasov, Romania, with sessions exploring fact-checking strategies, how to mine financial reports and using metadata for investigative stories.

Blake Morrison, investigative projects editor at Reuters, introduced participants at the BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting to fact-checking strategies and conducted a hands-on exercise exploring the differences between supposition and proof.

Miranda Patrucic, editor with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, explained how to interpret and get the most from financial reports and documents.

In the afternoon, New York Times senior video editor Christoph Koettl looked at how to analyse content and metadata in photos and videos.

Bellingcat’s Christiaan Triebert introduced participants to open-source investigation and verification looking at how the organisation investigated the downing of the passenger plane MH17 over Ukraine and the 2016 failed coup in Turkey.

The ninth BIRN Summer School has brought together young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, the UK, and the United States.

For the first time, the Summer School has welcomed journalists from Moldova and Ukraine.

The Summer School is organised in cooperation with the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad Adenauer- Stiftung, Open Society Foundations, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, with support from the European Union.

Ninth BIRN Summer School Begins in Romania

This year’s Summer School started on Monday in Poiana Brasov, Romania, with lectures and interactive sessions on using satellite imagery and digital research in investigative reporting and on how to push for accountability.

Reporters from the Balkan region and across the world gathered on Monday in the mountain resort of Poiana Brasov, Romania, for the ninth BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting.

After greeting participants, Blake Morrison, the school’s lead trainer and investigative projects editor at Reuters, held a lecture and discussion about how to imagine a complex investigative story, as well as how to push for accountability.

Christoph Koettl, senior video journalist at The New York Times, specializing in geospatial and open-source research, also held an introductory session on using digital research and verification in investigative research.

He continued with a lecture on geospatial and satellite imagery used in investigative journalism, followed by an interactive exercise.

In the afternoon, the participants discussed story ideas and were divided up into smaller groups for in-depth sessions with Reuters’ editor Morrison.

The ninth BIRN Summer School has brought together young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, the UK, and the United States.

For the first time, the Summer School welcomed journalists from Moldova and Ukraine.

The Summer School is organized in cooperation with the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad Adenauer- Stiftung, Open Society Foundations, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, with support from the European Union.

Pavla Holcova

Pavla Holcova is the founder of the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism, where she has investigated numerous cases concerning Serbian organised crime figures, Macedonian secret service investments in Prague, money laundering, and offshore companies.

She is a co-recipient of the Global Shining Light Award, which honours investigative journalism in developing and transitioning countries, and an EU Award for Investigative Journalism.

Holcova works closely with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting project on various international projects and investigations.

Before founding the Czech Center, she worked for six years at the People in Need humanitarian and human rights organisation as head of the Cuban section, and for Europe’s largest developer of open source tools for news media, Sourcefabric.

Matthew Caruana Galizia

Matthew Caruana Galizia is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and software engineer.

He worked at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) for five years, where he co-founded the organisation’s Data and Research Unit in 2014 and was a lead engineer on six major investigations: Offshore Leaks, Swiss Leaks, Luxembourg Leaks, Fatal Extraction, Panama Papers, and Paradise Papers.

Caruana Galizia left the ICIJ in 2018 to continue working on the case around the assassination of his mother, Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist who was killed by a car bomb near her home in Malta in October 2017.

Summer School Scholarships for Ukraine and Moldova reporters announced

Three full scholarships for Ukrainian and Moldovan journalists have been made available for BIRN’s Summer School of Investigative Reporting taking place from August 19 to 24 in Poiana Brasov in Romania.

The scholarships will cover full board accommodation, tuition fees and travel costs.

Journalists can apply at http://birnsummerschool.org/enrolment-2018-apply-now/

Applications for scholarships are open until July 15, while applications for international participants are open until August 1.

The decision to provide scholarships for reporters from Ukraine and Moldova comes as part of BIRN’s wider effort to support independent media and investigative journalists in these two countries.

The ninth BIRN Summer School will gather trainers from Reuters, New York Times, Bellingcat, OCCRP and ICIJ, focusing on new trends and online tools for investigative journalists. The full agenda is available at http://birnsummerschool.org/2018-agenda/ while more details about School can be found at www.birnsummerschool.com.

Susanne Reber

Susanne Reber is an award-winning veteran investigative editor, author and executive producer.

She has a knack for innovation and specialises in assembling and managing strong collaborative teams to investigate, create and tell stories on multiple mediums.

She is the co-founder of Reveal and the former executive editor of the Peabody award-winning national investigative radio programme and podcast.

Prior to founding her own consulting practice, Reber worked at the Center for Investigative Reporting, CIR, where she held various senior editorial roles, including Director of Digital Media, responsible for all content in film, audio and digital.

Her investigative projects have garnered her three Peabody Awards, an Emmy and a DuPont award among many others, and were showcased in national and international film festivals.

In 2013, she co-created Reveal to showcase investigative narrative stories, taking the programme from idea to reality. The pilot episode won the team a Peabody award. In 2015, after the programme’s team was fully staffed, Reber moved into the role of Executive Editor, recruiting, cultivating and managing partner relationships. This work took her all over the country and the world.

Prior to joining CIR in 2012, Reber formed and led NPR’s first Investigations Unit, which won multiple Peabody Awards, a Polk award, a Robert F. Kennedy Award and numerous others during her tenure.

Before moving to the US, Reber spent 23 years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., where she held various editorial leadership roles, including deputy managing editor of National Radio News and executive producer of CBC’s Michener Award-winning Investigative Unit from 2003 to 2009.

Reber is the co-author of Starlight Tour: The Last Lonely Night of Neil Stonechild, and is currently working on a new release of the book with Random House.

Reber also co-wrote and produced Faint Hope, a five-part, non-fiction audio docu-drama that was broadcast nationally and based on the suspicious death of Laurence Stocking. (CBC Radio Drama)

Reber graduated from the University of London with a bachelor’s degree in German and French language and literature. She earned her graduate diploma in broadcast journalism from City, University of London. Reber is based in Washington DC and splits her time between the US, Canada, and Switzerland.