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10.03.2014
The Panama Papers began in the old-fashioned way: a leaker contacted the Suddeutsche Zeitung, in Munich, eventually offering up millions of documents from the secret files of the Mossack Fonseca law firm. The movie “Spotlight,” which for many journalists provided a jolt of pure gratification, follows the canonical story line for news-biz triumphs.
Nicholas Lemann joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 1999, and has written the Letter from Washington and the Wayward Press columns for the magazine. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement (effective January 1, 2014) and Privacy Policy (effective January 1, 2014).
That’s right, I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to discuss why I looked like I would be involved in a Bourne-like plot, but I could see how my behaviour could be construed as such. But I can tell you this: if you happen to be passing by any of these locations on some nice sunny day, keep your eyes open. A determined team at a major-league newspaper, led by a brave and supportive editor, is permitted to spend months relentlessly chasing down a major story. Your California Privacy Rights The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast.
Sources help, of course, but they need to be persuaded and verified, and there is much more to the work than simply receiving material.
And if everything goes according to plan (I really hope it goes according to plan!), it should all lead to some good old-fashioned blogging goodness. I enjoyed looking at the pics and all throughout your blog , though this is my 1st time to comment.


Finally, after many setbacks that would have daunted ordinary mortals, the team fits all the pieces together.
And, being the proud papa of a short new cut, along with my daunting shades, I probably looked the part of someone who might use those sightlines for nefarious purposes. A lifetime ago, the Watergate and Pentagon Papers stories, at least as told by journalists, went this way, and more recently the WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden stories, if you squinted, could look as if they did, too. There were renowned, heroic papers involved—the Guardian, the Times, the Washington Post—and their involvement seemed to be essential to the large effects of the revelations.
What’s unusual about the monster story of the moment, the Panama Papers, at least in the United States, is that it lacks one lead actor, which usually has been an organization from the top rank of the journalism establishment.
The coordinator of the coverage is the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a nineteen-year-old subsidiary of a nonprofit news organization in Washington called the Center for Public Integrity. The heart of their work, in this and other cases, was not “doing the story” by themselves but organizing an international network that took on the project, with all the parties agreeing to abide by a single deadline and to share credit. There were a hundred and seven media partners, some large (the BBC), some tiny (Inkyfada, in Tunisia). The Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the big American broadcast networks are notably absent from the list. The Times’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, wrote an uncharacteristically hazy article on why the Times did not participate in the consortium, and why it did not initially treat the Panama Papers as front-page news. Let’s say some document has not enough proof for me, but enough for another news organization—or vice versa.


It takes a team to pull together any big project.” The absence of the Times and the others from the Panama Papers story might have been a one-time happenstance, but the lack of leading establishment players also might be a sign that the way journalism functions is changing. Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, had the ability to photocopy his material but not to publish it, so he needed journalism, too. Julian Assange and Edward Snowden could (and in Assange’s case, did) self-publish their purloined data troves electronically. They decided to seek partners in the mainstream media in order to get more attention, and to take advantage of American legal protections that made it difficult for the government to prevent publication.
The Panama Papers began in the old-fashioned way: a leaker contacted a traditional newspaper, the Suddeutsche Zeitung, in Munich, eventually offering up more than eleven million documents from the secret files of the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama. What if, in the future, a leaker simply self-publishes, and asks the crowd to make sense of the material on an independent Web site or a social-media platform?
What if a future data file is so enormous that significant numbers of high-end computer scientists who are expert in the more recondite realms of machine learning are better suited to find the news in it than anybody a journalism organization could afford to employ?
Whether it involves big organizations or online networks, the sort of journalism narrative that turns on reporters and editors acting as intermediaries between a leaker and the public may turn out to have been just a phase in the history of the profession.




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