The rise of global collaborative journalism in the ’post-truth’ age
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While the political economy for watchdog reporting is deeply challenging, its role exposing abuses of public trust had renewed focus in 2016. Spotlight ¬– a 2003 Boston Globe investigation into Catholic Church sex abuse ¬– won the Oscars’ Best Picture. Two months later, 400 members of the International Consortium for Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) broke the global story of systemic tax evasion with the ‘Panama Papers’, marking journalism’s largest data leak. These represent exemplar moments for watchdog journalism in a ’post-truth’ age said to be characterised by fake news and ’alternative facts’. Significantly, they illustrate a shift in investigative reporting practice: from an ‘old model’ of a highly-competitive single newsroom environment ¬¬- like the Spotlight team - to a new model of multiple newsrooms (and countries) unprecedentedly sharing information to expose wrongdoing on a global scale, like the Panama Papers. This paper applies a mixed methods approach to analyse the development and public impacts of this emerging model of collaborative investigative journalism. It examines 30 years of content analyses of national peer-reviewed media awards in Britain, USA and Australia to identify when newsroom collaborations originate in these nations and what are their key story targets and public benefits. These findings are triangulated with interviews with journalists from ’Spotlight’, ProPublica, Washington Post and the ICIJ. The findings contribute to an emerging scholarship examining how digital media technologies - held responsible for the ’journalism crisis’ - paradoxically provide new opportunities for collaborative investigative reporting, and offer democracies evidence-based journalism as a counter narrative to fake news.