The Centre for Investigative Journalism
The Centre for Investigative Journalism

CIJ 2023 – a Year in Review

Twelve months is a long time in investigative journalism, all the more so amidst rising political chaos at home and militarism overseas. Perhaps as a result, the last year has also been a time of unprecedented growth for the CIJ’s investigative training, both in the UK and around the world. From South Asia to Latin America to the Middle East, CIJ trainers and programme managers have been working hard to help both journalists and ordinary citizens dig out investigative truths, and shine a light on corruption and malfeasance wherever it arises.

It’s exhausting but exciting work which now takes place, from our modest offices in London, over a dizzying array of different time zones. Where to begin? Let’s start with our newest and most ambitious programme, the Open Climate Reporting Initiative.

OCRI is making a global difference!

2023 was a rollercoaster year for the Open Climate Reporting Initiative (OCRI) at the CIJ. We built on a successful Year One (April 2022 – March 2023) and moved into 3 new regions for Year Two that runs until March 2024.

Our big bet on the implementation strategy for the regions, Brazil and Lusophone Africa, South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), is proving to be a valid one, with more than 300 people directly trained from 16 countries, and over 1000 reached indirectly.

By the end of Year Two, OCRI will have reached journalists, researchers, academics, activists, environmentalists, state and civil society actors in 53 countries! That is a big deal and we are proud of how far we have come.

The multi-layered impact of OCRI is what makes it a unique intervention. One advantage of this is seeing the improvements due to the training and skill-sharing nearly instantly, with investigative projects numbering more than 80 so far. These projects have been able to go deeper into the subjects covered and achieved wider impact by incorporating innovations such as data analysis, open-source intelligence and satellite imagery into their methodologies. Read more about our OCRI programme here!

Climate Change in News Media: in partnership with UNESCO

Our partnership with UNESCO in 2023 went beyond regular news coverage and strengthened the capacity of the media to hold powerful actors to account, use digital methodologies for news gathering and production, and practise solutions journalism to combat climate change.

With UNESCO we worked from December 2022 until July 2023 by collaborating with Adisi-Cameroon for Francophone Africa and the Centre for Journalism, Innovation and Development (CJID) for Anglophone Africa. Through the project, we directly trained 40 journalists from 14 media organisations in 4 countries, namely Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana and Nigeria between March and May.

The post-training support to the newsrooms yielded an unprecedented impact. Over 80 more journalists were trained in their organisations, while at least 6 of the newsrooms set up a climate change reporting desk by participating in the project. This has led to the publication/broadcast of over 100 stories!


#CIJSummer Investigative Journalism Conference

Our flagship training event #CIJSummer Conference took place on 28-29 June at Goldsmiths, University of London.

It is the UK’s only conference with a focus on investigative skills. Over 170 people attended and this year we had 53 speakers.

We were delighted to welcome our Open Climate Reporting Initiative partners and trainees as both delegates and speakers at the conference.

This year’s keynote speakers were Olga Rudenko, editor of the Kyiv Independent; ‘Fisayo Soyombo, Nigerian investigative journalist, specialising in undercover investigations; legendary Spanish investigative journalist José María Irujo; and courageous Northern Irish investigative journalist Patricia Devlin.

“Really good. Really appreciated the opportunity to learn more deeply about practical skills, hearing consecutive sessions on data journalism, company accounts, etc.”

Photos only with captions on the CIJ Facebook page.
The videos are on the CIJ YouTube Channel.

Open Climate Reporting Initiative Networking at #CIJSummer Conference 2023

Just over 25 journalists gathered together a day before the #CIJSummer Conference to meet and build a network of trusted contacts for future cooperation. It was quite an experience to have journalists with similar interests on climate change and environmental reporting discuss their work and establish relationships that we hope will blossom.

5 out of 6 CIJ OCRI regional coordinators were joined by 10 Year One OCRI partners and the best trainees coming from 13 countries across Africa, Europe, Latin America and Asia. These included: Argentina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Colombia, Lesotho, Nepal, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda.

8 UK-based journalists specialising in covering climate and environment also attended, as well as 6 recipients of JournalismFund Europe funding.


CIJ Lyra McKee Investigative Journalism Training and Mentoring Bursary Scheme 2023

The CIJ Lyra McKee Bursary Scheme was established in 2019, following the murder of Lyra McKee, a courageous young Northern Irish journalist and friend of the CIJ.

The aim of the bursary is to fund the training and mentoring of aspiring and early-career journalists from poor and underrepresented backgrounds who live in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. This year the scheme welcomed 10 new trainees.

While participating in the CIJ Lyra McKee scheme, and assisted by the mentors, many applied for work/further study and are now doing paid shifts at The Belfast Telegraph and The Scottish Sun; another trainee has secured the position of an Apprentice Reporter for The Northern Echo; one trainee received a bursary to attend IRE AccessFest23 (US data journalism training); another is pursuing the NCTJ Level 5 Diploma (and struggling with shorthand!); and one trainee received funding from the Journalism Diversity Fund to study at City University.

“I think it is great for the CV. It is well recognised and quality training. It gives a great start for journalists in the industry and gives niche training not available elsewhere.”

CIJ Lyra McKee 2024 applications will open in late January 2024. Watch this space.


LYRA Documentary Wins Human Interest Documentary of the Year Award

On the evening of Friday 24 November, LYRA, the fantastic documentary about Lyra McKee by Alison Millar, won the Human Interest Documentary of the Year at the prestigious Association of International Broadcasting awards in London. Accepting the award on behalf of Alison and Lyra’s family, and together with the producer Jackie Doyle, our Director James Harkin talked about Lyra’s enduring legacy in the CIJ’s Lyra McKee mentoring scheme. Here’s an edited summary of his speech:

“One of the things that you get from watching this incredible documentary was that Lyra, from a modest Belfast background, had no poverty of ambition. And she needed that self-belief, she needed to be pushy, because the odds were so much stacked against her.

Which brings me to the reason why I’m here, representing the Centre for Investigative Journalism: Lyra was a friend of ours and a regular at our Summer Conference. And when she was so cruelly shot dead a number of friends of the CIJ got together, together with Lyra’s sister, Nichola, to see what we could do to get more people like her, the brightest and best, into the profession of investigative journalism. People exactly like Lyra, but who needed a helping hand on their way.”


CIJ Scheduled Courses

In 2023 we continued to provide our core scheduled training, as well as developing several exciting new courses.

Our data, digital tools and story-based inquiry training remain as popular as ever, and the financial investigations course we introduced last year sold out several times in 2023. We held another audio skills course focusing on podcast and radio, and are delighted that we’ll be able to offer this training in-person in early 2024.

In addition to delivering two more rounds of R training and bringing back our Web Scraping course, we introduced a new course on Investigating Data with Python, rounding out our training on coding for journalists.

In total we ran 36 scheduled courses this year, training 426 participants.
See the list of our upcoming courses here.

CIJ Bespoke Training

Alongside our scheduled courses, the CIJ offers bespoke training programmes, working closely with editors, research teams and their managers to understand the skills they currently possess, the skills they know they need, and the areas where our training can help in ways they may not be aware of.

We ran seven bespoke training programmes this year, continuing work with clients from previous years such as Oxfam and iNews, and joining with new organisations like Unite and Springer Nature to support their teams to develop their investigative capacity. The topics covered were wide-ranging, but included: open-source intelligence; financial investigations; environmental and supply chain investigations; and web scraping.


Source Protection Programme

The Source Protection Programme is an advanced digital security training course for investigators of all stripes. We focus on skills and methods that help reporters protect both themselves and their sources. 2023 was a big year for the programme, as we sought to fully establish our work and start to offer bespoke programmes to meet the different needs of reporters and organisations. We trained more than 550 journalists from over 40 countries in a variety of different settings, including online charitable and commercial programmes and in-person workshops at conferences around the world.

The end of 2023 marks the close of the first two years of running the programme. In 2024 we are looking ahead to expanding our work in the US, Eastern Europe and Southern Africa. If you would like to bring the programme to your newsroom or colleagues – get in touch!


Investigative Practice in Latin America

Along with our partners Fundacion Gabo and CLIP, we have consolidated a programme for Investigative Practice in Latin America, that has been renamed ‘Taller Logan de Prácticas Investigativas’ (formerly ‘The Logan Workshop on Investigative Practices’). Under this new name we embarked on an 18-month programme of training in investigative and associated skills for journalists and researchers across all of Latin America, including Brazil.

We have already completed Year 1, with almost one thousand people reached. This includes two online workshops and two open lectures between December 2022 and May 2023.

Our first two workshop rounds were attended by a total of 32 participants from 14 countries, while the open lectures have been viewed by more than 952 people from across the region, from Mexico to Argentina.

Year 1 has been very successful. In its second year of formal delivery, ‘The Logan Workshop on Investigative Practices’ has proved to be an increasingly sought-after training space for investigations and has expanded its reach — growing from 55 applications to 115, and for the forthcoming third round (to be held in January 2024) we have a preliminary figure of 170 applicants.


CIJ Glasgow Training

Storm Babet did its best, but couldn’t put a stop to the CIJ’s regional training that took place in Glasgow on 21 October this year. Held in partnership with the National Library of Scotland at Glasgow’s prestigious Kelvin Hall, places filled quickly. Unfortunately the storm disrupted the travel of many, but we had around 50 delegates who were treated to a day of talks and hands-on workshops. The day was rounded off with networking drinks.

Look out for details of next year’s conference on our website and in the newsletter.


CIJ Wall of Fame

We are always very proud of our speakers, trainers, volunteers and alumni. Here are just some of their achievements this year!!!

Our former volunteer and graduate of #CIJSummer Conference, Gesbeen Mohammad (now a #CIJSummer Speaker too!) won an Emmy Award in the Hard News Feature Story: Long Form category for her documentary Putin’s War at Home.

Our long term trainer and CIJ Lyra McKee Bursary Scheme mentor Jenna Corderoy won mySociety’s Exposing the truth award!

Our CIJ Lyra McKee graduate Jax Sinclair was nominated for the RTS Scotland Awards 2023 in the Young Journalist category.

Speakers from 2023’s #CIJSummer conference were recognised for their achievements at the British Journalism Awards 2023. Dan Neidle won Investigation of the Year, while Paul Morgan-Bentley picked up Scoop of the Year. You can watch the recording of Paul speaking with Dean Kirby, who was shortlisted, about their work investigating the Prepayment Meter Scandal here.

That’s a Wrap

That’s a wrap for 2023, probably the CIJ’s busiest year thus far. But 2024 promises to be even bigger and better. As the Open Climate Reporting Initiative gathers momentum and allies, we’re going to go further and deeper into helping journalists around the world to get great climate stories using state-of-the-art investigative tools. Our Source Protection Programme is expanding into whole new parts of the world, including Africa and North America. Our Summer Conference, as usual, will take place in early summer – be there or miss out.

In the autumn we’ll return to Glasgow for a whole new regional conference, offering exciting speakers and tasters of our training for next to no money. Also next autumn we’ll be running the latest exciting iteration of the CIJ Logan Symposium, the world’s premier and most prestigious meeting place for fearlessly critical and imaginative thinking about the landscape of investigative journalism.

Then there’s our ongoing work to train local journalists (as well as a rising “fifth estate” of skilled local investigators) in and around the UK and Ireland, including our Access To Tools programme, which has seen the CIJ develop a powerful web of training and support everywhere from Belfast to Hull. Our Lyra McKee initiative, which offers a muscular leg-up into the profession for the brightest and the best of those who need it. And our delicious bread and butter of scheduled and bespoke training which operates right throughout the year, and which (in its bespoke form) is now training some of the very best newsrooms in the world.

We might have said this before, but CIJ training is simply the best possible way to further your skills and your career in investigative journalism. Either as a Christmas gift to yourself or a new year’s resolution, do consider getting some soon, if only to refresh your understanding of what’s possible in the brave new world of investigative journalism.

Here’s hoping that we’ll see you, either in the flesh or online, at one of our training events in the new year. In the meantime, a very merry Christmas and happy new year from the (newly global) CIJ team.

Have a fantastic holiday season and a very happy new year from all of us at the CIJ!


See also: CIJ Recommends 2023: Good reads, podcasts and documentaries.