The Centre for Investigative Journalism
The Centre for Investigative Journalism

Welcome from the Director of the CIJ

What a difference a few months makes. This time last year investigative reporters were digging into the convulsions wrought by Brexit, and following money and patterns of migration amid the fraying of liberal internationalism and a new global thirst for sovereignty and populist politics. Then came Covid-19. If investigative journalism seemed a luxury amid a rapacious global pandemic and its economic fallout, it turned out to be more necessary than ever.

At the CIJ, while standing in solidarity with laid-off colleagues and hard-pressed freelancers, we didn’t want to waste a crisis. Instead we took a step back. Together with our world-class faculty of trainers, we began a unique programme of research and development to think about what works online, about how to rebuild quality training in investigative reporting from the ground up. We also wanted to build out – to use the opportunity of a new medium to extend our training to more local, regional and international audiences. The upshot, bringing together all our different training subjects and programmes for the first time under one virtual roof, is this year’s CIJSummer Conference – the 18th iteration of our annual conference, and the first to take place online.

We’re genuinely excited by it, and we hope you are too. As well as reworking our teaching methods, Summer Conference manager Marina Calland and the rest of the team have rebuilt the pace of #CIJSummer too. Instead of taking place over three full days, this year’s event will take place over six. We wanted to give you more time to take a breath – that government-mandated stroll in the park, for example, or some urgent weeding of the garden. In between those breaks we’re offering you four days of hands-on, small-class, pay-as-you-go training in our usual specialist subjects – how to do data journalism, how to use freedom of Information legislation, how to turn investigations into stories and how to use “open source” intelligence – sandwiched between two days of public conversations and addresses which we’re making available entirely free. This year, among others, you can hear the inimitable Can Dündar, who was arrested for an explosive scoop about illicit Turkish sales to Syrian rebels and who now lives under threat and in exile; the indomitable Annika Smethurst, whose home was raided by Australian Federal police in search of the source for her important surveillance story; the indefatigable Katherine Eban, a New Yorker who, even before the age of Covid-19, was digging into the murky relationship between big pharmaceuticals, government and public health; and the inspirational Nadine White, a CIJ alumna and co-author (with Emma Youle) of an original investigation into financial exploitation at a politically fashionable London church.

As the world continues to collapse inwards, it’s heartening to see investigative journalists continuing to stand their ground – asking difficult questions, challenging malfeasance wherever they find it. It’s hard to avoid the fact that it’s made them enemies of all kinds. In America we see the brutalising of journalists covering protests against police brutality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd: one of the subjects of our panel discussion on the US protests on 11 July. In the Philippines we see the conviction on spurious charges of last year’s Gavin MacFadyen lecturer speaker Maria Ressa. Closer to home in the UK, we see the continued detention and possible extradition of Julian Assange for services to investigative journalism.

At the CIJ, our primary mission has always been to refresh investigative journalists with skills other parts of the media can’t reach, or won’t teach. In 2003 CIJ Summer Conference (formerly called Summer School) was our foundation stone. Now it’s a showcase for what’s new and what’s possible in teaching investigative reporting. The results of our new online curriculum are already in. #CIJSummer sold out in little more than a week, and the rest of our training is benefitting from a newly global reach. In the last few months we’ve taken high-quality, hands-on education to groups of budding and experienced investigative reporters in India, Australia, and Latin America – and done it more efficiently and more cheaply than would ever have been possible before. In response to the increased demand, we’re running more scheduled training sessions in the weeks after CIJSummer, and will announce more in the Autumn; see our website for details.

When things go back to (relatively) normal, we’re going to continue our online training efforts, because we’re determined to get our training into as many of the right hands as possible, wherever it’s needed most. As Covid-19 continues to throw our lives and economies into disarray over the next year, one thing we do know – journalists will be in the frontline. We want to make sure they’re not only safe but well-equipped to do their best work. Until then, resist the temptation of freshly opened pubs and come find us online.

James Harkin
CIJ Director
25th June 2020

James Harkin

James Harkin is the director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism. He is a journalist who covers social change and political conflict and whose work appears in Vanity Fair, Harper’s, GQ, The Smithsonian, Prospect and the Guardian.
Published: 25 Jun 2020