I Annotate Berlin 2016 Logo

Annotating Investigative Journalism

Dr. Mark Lee Hunter
Adjunct Prof and Senior Research Fellow at INSEAD, founding member of GIJN
Stefan Candea
RCIJ / investigative journalist, coordinator of EIC.network
Heiner Ulrich
IT lead - Der Spiegel
Johnny West
Founder of OpenOil

Date: May 19, 10:30am - 11:10am
Duration: 40 mins
Location: Microsoft Atrium, Berlin


Story-based inquiry has become a benchmark method of journalistic investigation. In this system, a hypothesis serves to focus an investigation, and to identify specific events and sources for inquiry. The method aims at a high degree of organization and structuration, enabling journalists or fact-based activists to manage and conceptualize large quantities of information.

Annotation fits perfectly with this method. First, it contributes to incremental construction and verification of a hypothesis. Annotation also enables investigators to continually counter and critique other forces with a minimal investment of their own resources.

That said, there are several pain points that the investigative process raises. Some of these could be potentially addressed by digital annotations. We'll talk about network investigations, from the point of view of journalists and technologists.

Social networks types of environments are the technology of choice for sharing knowledge within network investigations (i.e. Offshoreleaks, SwissLeaks, Panama Papers). It would be far more helpful to have these interactions on the actual source document. This is where annotations can become the message stream environment around source documents and data. There are other tech challenges such as data security during the research process and after publication, especially when involving larger groups of users with different tech capabilities. Both source documents and annotations need a secure infrastructure, given the sensible aspect of the investigative process (sources and story need to be protected).