100Reporters represents a new take on a familiar mission: using the power of the pen to hold government and business accountable. Every year, corrupt leaders and their cronies siphon more than $1.26 trillion from the national economies of developing nations, according to the Global Financial Integrity Project. For every $1 that enters Africa in development aid, some $10 leaves the continent in illegal cash transfers. This is money that could be used to build roads, schools, water treatment plants, and hospitals.
100Reporters is a revolutionary news organization, dedicated to forging new frontiers in responsible journalism. It joins 100 of the planet’s finest professional reporters with whistle-blowers and citizen journalists across the globe, to report on corruption in all its forms. The organization, spearheaded by veteran foreign correspondents of top-tier news outlets, aims to raise the caliber, impact and visibility of citizen-driven investigative journalism, as a means of promoting transparency and good government.
Thanks to advances in technology and heightened transparency among international institutions, we are in an unprecedented position to know and report more than ever before on both the flow of illicit cash, and on the spending habits of government officials and their friends.
At a time when dictators regularly employ the latest technology to plunder their nations–wiring ill-gotten gains to offshore accounts, buying lavish properties far from their countrymen’s eyes, using family and friends to skim a percentage off government contracts–we believe that the only effective challenge to that corruption is through a similarly global effort, uniting the observations and experiences of citizens the world over with the most solid journalistic skills.
Our goal is to embrace technology’s potential to build new forms of journalism around a towering, intractable global issue. We’re planning to train citizens–the first victims of graft and cronyism–to expose the corruption around them, and to bring these citizens into the reporting of stories wherever possible.
With initial backing from a major philanthropic foundation, we are building a multiplatform site where sources can submit—anonymously, if necessary—news tips and evidence of corruption. These will become the raw material for stories to be reported and written by our professional journalists, and presented in hard-hitting news reports available to a worldwide audience. Where feasible, our 100 reporters will work hand-inhand with citizen journalists, sharing bylines and payment. Such partnerships will provide invaluable on-the-job experience, and raise the level of citizen reporting in countries lacking in formal journalism education. Our cadre of professional reporters may also initiate stories independently, and tap our network of grass roots supporters for assistance.
The events shaking the Middle East these last months – the uprisings from Tunisia to Libya, from Egypt to Bahrain – demonstrate the power of transparency to move nations. In those entrenched dictatorships, it was evidence of massive corruption among autocrats, their families and allies that sparked the astonishing popular rebellions that have challenged rulers once thought invincible. Often, evidence of graft was hiding in plain sight: known, presumed even, but never organized and packaged to have any impact. (Only as the government of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt began to collapse did established news outlets expose its massive corruption – using evidence that turned out to be surprisingly easy to gather from quasi-public sources.) 100Reporters will do the digging, gathering and packaging, and present its results to the world.
We have formed partnerships with other news operations, from Global Post to the Center for Public Integrity to the Global Financial Integrity Project and others. We have also been admitted to the 60-member Investigative News Network, which will soon begin offering our stories for syndication through Thomson Reuters to hundreds of newspapers around the world. Expanding our publication base will also allow our stories to reach the widest possible audience, especially in nations that typically shut down the Internet as a response to serious reporting.
Our mission is to cover corruption of all sorts, from the pervasive bribery that raises the cost of ordinary government services, to extortion, to the sweetheart contracts that perpetuate poverty and strangle competition.
Beyond foundation support, we have secured legal representation on a pro bono basis from the Washington, D.C.-based legal firm Arnold & Porter. We are seeking additional funding from donors and foundations interested in the future of journalism, and in promoting democracy and government accountability. Over the long term, we plan to raise revenue through advertising, syndication, reader donations, conferences and fundraising events.
We have nearly completed recruitment of our 100 top reporters and editors. Initially, we will count only a small core of full-time staff, with many more contributing on a freelance basis. As our site expands to include more countries, our full-time staff will grow with our resources and reach.