The Challenges and Impact of Cross-Border Journalism

October 20, 2015

By Isabel Gonzalez-Prendergast

On Monday 19 October, the Frontline Club was joined by a panel of experts to discuss the increasingly necessary journalism model of cross-border collaboration. Gavin MacFadyen, director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism and visiting professor at City University, moderated the event, which was held in partnership with the Romanian Cultural Centre in London and Frontline Club Bucharest. The panel shared their own varied experiences of cross-border investigations and discussed the potential impact and many challenges inherent in this model of journalism.MONDAY PANELStefan Candea, investigative journalist and co-founder of the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism, The Black Sea and Sponge, began by raising a point that recurred throughout the discussion, that journalists must often now circumvent mainstream media outlets to publish investigative reports on independent platforms.

MacFadyen also commented on the current state of the press, which has led to many cross-border journalists self-publishing or collaborating with new independent platforms to share their work. “There has never been a period in my long time in journalism – 40 years – where I’ve seen anything like the surveillance, the censorship, the omission in the editorial process, which is now completely commonplace. What’s omitted from stories is far more important that what is censored.”

The discussion also covered the notion of a “bought press”, in which journalists are employed to serve the interests and advance the agenda of certain official bodies or corporations.

Craig Shaw, British journalist and fellow at the Centre for Investigative Journalism in London, commented on the benefits and practicalities of working with journalists from other countries. He commented that it is often the case that British journalists do not speak other languages, which consequently limits the scope of their investigations, but pointed to their journalistic value of being based in the UK – “a front door for financial corruption.”

Stephen Grey, special correspondent on the global enterprise team at Reuters news agency and author of Ghost Plane and Operation Snakebite, likened the process of a cross-border story gaining momentum to two students at opposite ends of the room during a school assembly beginning a slow clap that quickly catches on.

Grey said that when it comes to the impact of a journalistic investigation, there is “a power in things coming from different directions.”

A member of the audience raised the subject of ethics in journalism, with regards to undercover investigations.

Crina Boros, an investigative reporter at Greenpeace UK and a trainer specialising in data-driven reporting and transparency laws, spoke of the different approaches taken by media outlets for undercover journalism.

She commented: “There’s an acceptable amount of deception that you can practice. Investigative journalism doesn’t have to do with undercover, but it is part of it… You don’t have to become a detective.”

Following an audience question, the panel discussed the process of investigating corruption in collaboration with journalists from other countries.

Grey said: “There’s always a confusion between being Eurosceptic and investigating corruption… The wider problem is that there is this ungoverned space.”


With the potential impact of cross-border collaborative journalism comes risk and potential obstacles. The speakers discussed issues relating to trust of other team-members, centralised structures, how to deal with multiple sources and data dumps, and accountability.

Shaw commented: “Data does very strange things to journalists.. It’s often like a soap opera. There’s an issue of propriety and it causes a lot of complications… It works better in smaller groups.”