ASNE-O’Brien Award Winner will Speak on ‘Panama Papers’ Project on Sept. 19

Marina Walker Guevara, this year’s Burleigh Lecturer

Journalist Marina Walker Guevara helped lead the international “Panama Papers” investigation into the secret financial dealings of the world’s rich and famous.

In a public appearance this month at Marquette, she’ll discuss the challenges involved in the Pulitzer Prize-winning project, which brought together hundreds of journalists analyzing millions of leaked documents.

Walker Guevara will give the annual Burleigh Media Ethics Lecture at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 19, in the Alumni Memorial Union Ballrooms. It is free and open to the public. Sponsors are the O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism and the Diederich College of Communication.

“I’m very excited to come to Marquette and talk to students and professors,” said Walker Guevara. “Although the Panama Papers had an incredible impact on policy…(it) also showed a new way of doing investigative reporting.”

In April, The Panama Papers reporting team won the first annual O’Brien Fellowship Award for Impact in Public Service Journalism, through the American Society of News Editors.

Walker Guevara is the deputy director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which managed the investigation. She’s won multiple journalism awards spanning a 20-year career while investigating environmental degradation by mining companies, the global offshore economy, the illicit tobacco trade and the criminal networks that are depleting the world’s oceans, and more.

To produce “The Panama Papers: Politicians, Criminals and the Rouge Industry That Hides Their Cash,” Walker Guevara coordinated 380 journalists from nearly 80 countries in one of the largest collaborative investigations in journalism history.

“It was something that had already been explored on a smaller scale, but we showed that it can be done on a global scale too,” Walker Guevara said.

The series, which won a 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting, investigated the secretive industry and investigation behind Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that helped people hide their assets, skirt tax regulations and rules and fund unethical businesses.

This video details a summary of the project:

ICIJ completed with project together with a German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, and more than 100 other media partners. Journalists from around the world sifted through the massive data leak, which included 40 years worth of emails, financial spreadsheets, passports and corporate records and revealed the secret owners of bank accounts and companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions.

The project was not without challenges, though, Walker Guevara said. The reporters kept most of their sources confidential, which was difficult for some newsroom editors. Reporters didn’t even discuss their work with close family and friends, she said, which was unique and challenging work.

“Reporters realized they were part of something special and a story that is bigger than themselves and their newsrooms. They didn’t want to ruin it for everyone else and for the world. It was a very nice, collective sense of mission that made things work,” she said.

The O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism has funded investigative reporting projects since 2012. The application deadline for next year is Jan. 26, 2018.

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