Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Pierre Romera, chief of technology at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Join us to hear how the largest cross-border collaboration to date exposes the hidden riches of the elite

The biggest leak about tax havens to date, an unprecedented journalistic collaboration spanning across the globe and a number of important revelations showing how a shadowy financial system benefits the world’s most rich and powerful. 

Join us for our next Dataharvest pop-up session with ICIJ’s Pierre Romera to learn how the largest investigation in the history of journalism came to be.

Save the date: October 13, 2021 at 10:00 AM CEST

Register here

The Pandora Papers investigation featured more than 600 journalists from 150 news outlets and has unearthed offshore dealings of 35 current and former world leaders and more than 300 other current and former public officials and politicians around the world.

What does one do upon receiving a colossal 2.94 TB of data comprised of 11,9 millions of internal documents? How do you handle such a massive leak securely? What does it take to coordinate the reporting of 600 journalists across the world? How does one structure the research information and organise the findings of such a complex project?

Chief of technology of International Consortium of Investigative journalists (ICIJ) Pierre Romera will join us for a discussion to reveal the details behind the investigation on which he has been working on for the past two years.

You can read the Pandora papers featured articles here

Explore the biggest political names uncovered in data

Learn more about the investigation

How to investigate the deteriorating work conditions and insecure jobs in Europe – Wednesday July 7th at 10 am!

“Is work working” is a question that The Bureau Local journalists asked themselves, before plunging into a months-long investigation into the gig work economy.

The number of people in insecure jobs in the UK has risen steadily over the past decade with the growth of zero-hours contracts, an expanding gig economy and changes to the wider labour market. One in nine workers – 3.6 million people – were in insecure jobs even before the pandemic,” noted the Bureau.

During the pandemic the situation has deteriorated, with already over-worked and under-payed workers seeing further erosion of their rights. But how to investigate big companies that often make their employees work long hours and don’t pay them adequately – but don’t give out their data? The Bureau decided to get the information from the people employed within the industry, and also engage them as participatory journalists on the story.

Emiliano Mellino, The Bureau Local journalist, and Ethan Bradley, a Deliveroo rider who worked with The Bureau as a participant journalist on the project, will join us for a panel to talk about their cross-disciplinary collaboration and the methodology they used during the investigation.

Save the date: Wednesday July 7, 10.00 AM (CET)

Register for the pop-up here

The panel will take us through the steps that the Bureau Local team took during this collaborative investigation into the issues of insecure work and gig economy. They started by launching a call addressed to anyone – not just journalists, but also experts and workers – who had an idea for a story they thought was worth telling.

They identified key ideas they wanted to pursue working on, and engaged with participant journalists – workers in different industries – that investigated the story with them. They also set up an online data gathering form through which they were able to analyse thousands of invoices from more than 300 riders over the past year. The analysis showed “that one in three made on average less than £8.72, the national minimum wage for those over 25, for their overall time per session in the app.”

Read their stories here:

Amazon’s empty pledge leaves agency workers without shifts and pay

Agency work pits “minnow against the whale”

Deliveroo riders can earn as little as 22 pounds an hour during shifts, as boss stands to make 500M pounds

Carmen Aguilar García

Curious about how one can investigate big polluters in Europe? Save the date May 21, 4:00 pm CET and join us at the Dataharvest conference for a session on how to track industrial emissions.

Register for the conference here

The UK has pledged that by 2050, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by all the cars, homes and industry in the country will be net-zero. Manufacturing and industry – that are the drivers of the country’s economy and important job providers – often escape public scrutiny. A data-led investigation found out that 15 firms are responsible for around a sixth of all the UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

The investigation was a cross-border collaboration between Sky News (UK), El Pais (Spain), Le Figaro (France), Le Soir (Belgium) and Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland).

“We used publicly available data from the European Trade System (ETS) to find the installations that produced more CO2 emissions in 2019, and we dug into companies’ public statements, news media articles, and companies’ account reports to track the parent companies responsible for each installation and therefore the emissions allocated in the ETS,” explains data journalist Carmen Aguilar García. They also considered the UK carbon budget, “in order to put the ETS figure into context in the wider picture of the CO2 emissions produced in the UK,” she explains.

The story made it to the top 10 Sky News story of the day.  In this session, Carmen Aguilar Garcia will take us through her investigation process, and share with us tips on how to deal with the ETS data, and replicate the methodology in other EU countries.

Read the investigation here

 

 

Screendump from project video, made by Alexia Barakou and produced by Reporters United.

Are rents constantly rising in your city? Has it been increasingly difficult to find adequate and affordable place? Has home ownership become only wishful thinking?

High demand for flats across European cities has made housing a very attractive investment. While many people can’t find an affordable flat to live in, reports of a huge increase in investment flows into housing across Europe go hand in hand with stories of abusive practices by ‘corporate landlords’, companies that buy and rent out housing for profit.

Where is all that money coming from? Who are the companies and investors buying so much housing across Europe? How does this phenomenon affect people’s lives and homes in European cities?

During a period of more than seven months, a team of over 25 investigative and data journalists and visualisations experts from 16 European countries, have been working on the cross-border collaborative project Cities for Rent: Investigating Corporate Landlords Across Europe. The project was coordinated by the Arena for Journalism in Europe.

Join us for a pop-up session  with Adriana Homolova, Hendrik Lehmann and Jose Miguel Calatayud on May 5 (10:00 AM CET).

Register here

In 2013, Madrid authorities sold more than 4,800 homes, originally intended as affordable housing, to companies controlled by American investment funds. One of the new landlords, American giant Blackstone, soon increased the rents – in some cases by doubling them over a period of three years. Many tenants ended up being evicted. 

In Lisbon, in 2017, two companies bought a building for 2.7 million euros and shortly after put it up for sale for 7 million as an “unoccupied” building, when in reality there were 12 families living there.

In ParisLondonCopenhagen and Berlin, tenants in homes owned by Swedish company Akelius have been complaining for years of abusive practices by their ‘corporate landlord’. In 2020, even the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing said that Akelius was abusing its tenants’ human rights.

Similar stories tend to repeat across Europe. Total investment into residential real estate in Europe has increased more than 700% between 2009 and 2020, from 7.9 to 66.9 billion euros, according to data by Real Capital Analytics. Corporate landlords’ are increasing their presence in different European cities, while the authorities rarely know how many homes those kinds of companies have acquired. (continued under the video)

Cross-border collaborative project Cities for Rent: Investigating Corporate Landlords Across Europe is envisaged as the first step towards more cross-border collaborative research into the crisis of housing affordability and how it affects people’s lives. Join us to learn how the journalists involved went ahead and started building the databases of the corporate landlords in different European countries; who these big players are, and how they’re impacting our lives.

Read the stories

The investigation received support through IJ4EU fund for cross-border investigative journalism

The EU border agency Frontex has the largest budget of any EU agency. “We don’t meet with lobbyists,” they claim – an investigative team proved them wrong. Hear how to find your own story in their data.

If a public institution is reluctant to share information with the public, how can we use our right to file freedom of information (FOI) requests to obtain documents from them – and push them towards more transparency? Luisa Izuzquiza, researcher and campaigner with FragDenStaat, and Vera Deleja-Hotko, investigative journalist, will share with us how they used FOIs to build the first lobbying transparency register of Frontex.

This happens on the very first day of Dataharvest 2021, Tuesday, May 18, at 11am.

See the full Dataharvest program and buy your ticket

“Frontex is the golden standard of opacity,” says Luisa Izuzquiza.

Among journalists and researchers, Frontex has the reputation of being a secretive institution, from which it is difficult to get information and documents.

“EU institutions are not FOI user friendly, but Frontex is the golden standard of opacity. It is remarkable how difficult they make it to request information,” explains Luisa Izuzquiza.

For instance, the agency will usually ask repeatedly for a request to be narrowed down, will then ask you to pay for the documents, might require multiple clarifications while using “scary bureaucratic language,” and will, basically, stall you for as long as they can.

In June 2020, Izuzquiza, Deleja-Hotko and a couple of their colleagues decided to start researching Frontex.

“When we published, we got 1,8 million hits in the first 5 minutes, and our website crashed,” says Vera Deleja-Hotko.

“We thought it was weird that the EU border was being surveilled with military technology. But we weren’t searching to get the answer we eventually got. We initially didn’t know what we were expecting to find. Everything happened organically,” explains Deleja-Hotko.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, does not meet with lobbyists from the weapons and surveillance industry. Or that is what they repeatedly claimed. On its website, Frontex includes only partial information about invitations to their meetings and does not reveal who was invited or what was presented. The team has revealed that Frontex holds special events for security industry lobbyists who seek to promote “solutions based on techno-fixes, from biometric surveillance to firepower.” The same lobbyists seek to shape Frontex’s approach to border control and benefit from the contracts.

In 2020 Frontex was granted a €5.6 billion budget, the largest of any EU agency. They have an army of 10,000 border guards; they got an extension of its powers and mandate, and the ability to acquire and lease its own equipment (vessels, vehicles, airplanes, drones, radars etc.).

The research team, of which Izuzquiza was part, requested the documents and analysed them; the journalistic team, of which Deleja-Hotko was part, analysed the documents and looked for the story in them.

“We used small bits of information to make people interested. And people were interested! When we published the story, we got 1,8 million hits in the first 5 minutes, and our website crashed…,” Deleja-Hotko says.

Izuzquiza and Deleja-Hotko’s team published the original documents in their entirety. They say that there are more stories to discover and delve into in the data they made available. Join the presentation – and maybe find your next big story!

See Corporate Europe Observatory Lobbying Fortress Europe report

See Frontex Files (ZDF)

 

INSTANT INSPIRATION is a new concept at Dataharvest 2021 – an investigation that you can use for inspiration or just plainly copy in your own country. First, we follow the journeys that our clothes make – both the used clothes donated to charity and the clothes bought online and then returned to the vendors. Finnish reporters Minna Knus-Galán and Jessica Stolzmann followed the clothes with hidden gps trackers, and their findings were not pretty.

Minna Knus-Galán checking used clothed that go into a secretive global business. Photo: Jouni Soikkeli

Minna Knus-Galán tracked 6 pieces of used clothes, given to charity organisations, presumably with the expectation of helping the poor or recycling textile to new material. Most of the clothes were worn out, even ragged. All 6 pieces went abroad from Finland, and as the trackers beeped away, the reporters proved that we outsource a waste problem to Africa and Asia, and that used clothes are a secretive, global business.

The final destination of our used clothes is not known to experts or even the charity organisations themselves. 

“Oops! That didn’t go according to our script”, the director of Fida, one of the biggest charity organisation in Finland commented. “Our clothes are supposed to stay in Europe. I’m really sorry the sweater went all the way to Nigeria.” 

After the publication, Fida terminated its agreement with some of its partners in Europe in order to secure that the clothes don’t travel outside Europe.   

Too big, too small, wrong colour – Jessica Stolzmann checked where returned clothes from online stores end up.

Jessica Stolzmann followed what happens to the clothes that we buy online and send back. Online shopping has increased during the pandemic and so has serial returners, people who buy items and then return them. The reporters used trackers to find out that many of our returned clothes travel many extra miles to countries like Estonia where a large industry has been built up to handle and repack returned clothes.

Sometimes the clothes cannot be sold again, and the reporters could follow the returned clothes to Iraq where they were sold or ended up in a garbage dump – again exporting the European waste problem to other parts of the world.

What did the reporters learn? Which conclusions could they draw, and what happened afterwards? And how can you use their ideas and experiences for your own investigations? This is what Instant Inspiration is all about! Come and meet Minna Knus-Galán and Jessica Stolzmann in the very first on Wednesday May 19 at 17 pm CET.

See Jessica Stolzmann’s web story (in Swedish, but easy to understand by following the pictures)

See Minna Knus-Galán’s tv program (English subtitles can be activated)

Buy your ticket for Dataharvest – the European Investigative Journalism conference

Robots write articles, select news, edit pictures. They research, they personalize our front pages and target them to the individual. How can we put robots – or artificial intelligence – to the best use and make sure that our ethical standards in journalism are still respected and maintained?

Andreas Marckmann Andreassen

Danish digital journalist Andreas Marckmann Andreassen has spent a year researching this, and his book “How automatization will change the media” hits the streets on September 14. It also hits the mail service, because it is considered so important that the Danish media industry funds that it will be distributed to all of 18,000 members of the Danish Journalists’ Union.

The book builds on Andreas’ international research and travel, including more than 70 interviews with media people, scholars and technologists – from New York Times to local media houses. An English version of the book will be published in 2021.

At Dataharvest Digital, Andreas will share his 9 principles for ethical automation. How do we safeguard journalistic ethics in automated journalism? How do we ensure transparency and avoid bias, how do we secure checks and balances in the system, and how do we take responsibility when it fails? Who needs to understand the system – and what about privacy?

Charlie Beckett

We are also proud to announce that the moderator of the session is professor Charlie Beckett of London School of Economics, founding director of Polis, the think-tank for research and debate around international journalism and society in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE.

The data journalism weeks begins on September 29 – register for Dataharvest Digital here! We open on Tuesday September 1!

The laws on access to information, often called FOI (Freedom of Information) for short, are some of our most important tools as investigative journalists. Following the paper trails is an art in itself, and many important investigations have reached their results through systematic – and creative – use of FOI. We have several sessions that give you tips and tricks during the conference. Among others, you can meet French Stéphane Horel from Le Monde, Swedish freelancer Read more

At Dataharvest 2020 there will be 3 full tracks of data skills training – from the basics to the super nerdy. One of the trainers is Adriana Homolova, Slovak living in the Netherlands and working freelance and for the OCCRP. Here is what she told us:

Read more

At Dataharvest we have three full tracks of data skills training with great trainers from all over Europe. Meet one of them – Jonathan Stoneman, freelance data and journalism trainer, “based in the UK, but a European at heart”:

What are you going to teach at Dataharvest?

This year I am teaching R with my good friend Luuk Sengers. Together we have come up with a method of teaching people how to get to grips with R’s “Tidyverse” suite of packages and leaves them with the capacity to go on learning after they leave the classroom. Read more