A discussion with
Marina Walker Guevara
Deputy Director, The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Investigative Reporter, Süddeutsche Zeitung
P Vaidyanathan Iyer
The Indian Express
Edward Mason Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School MPA/MC 2018
Samantha Henry (Moderator)
Assistant Director for Programming and Special Projects, The Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard University
Harvard Kennedy School MPA/MC 2019
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Panelists Deputy Director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists; Maria Walker Guevara, Investigative Reporter for the Süddeutsche Zeitung; Frederik Obermaier, Reporter with the Indian Express and Edward Mason Fellow; P Vaidyanathan Iyer joined Samantha Henry for a conversation on their investigative journalism work that led to the exposure of the Panama Papers. The panelists discussed the process of uncovering and decodifying something as sensitive as the Panama Papers and the impact that they had all around the world. They also discussed the political ramifications that the Panama Papers had on power structures everywhere, including Iceland where massive protests broke out resulting in the resignation of their Prime Minister. They emphasized the importance of journalism as a measure of accountability and the necessity for more work like this to be done.
Marina Walker Guevara is the deputy director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a network of reporters in 80 countries who collaborate on stories of global concern. She has managed the two largest collaborations of reporters in journalism’s history: the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers, which involved hundreds of journalists and media partners using technology to unravel stories of public interest from terabytes of leaked financial data. Walker Guevara has been instrumental in developing ICIJ’s model of large-scale media collaboration, persuading reporters who used to compete with one another instead to work together, share resources and amplify their reach and impact. Before becoming an editor, Walker Guevara investigated issues including environmental degradation by mining companies, cigarette smuggling by leading tobacco firms, and the shadowy world of offshore finance. Her story Children of Lead, about lead poisoning in a Peruvian town by an American-owned lead smelting company, revealed a public health crisis that soon attracted international attention.
Her stories have been published in the BBC, The Washington Post, the Miami Herald, Le Monde and other media worldwide. Her work has won and shared more than 40 national and international awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting, as well as honors from Long Island University’s George Polk Awards, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Overseas Press Club, Bartlett and Steele Awards, and Columbia University’s Maria Moors Cabot Award for distinguished Latin American reporting (special citation). A native of Mendoza, Argentina, Walker Guevara graduated from Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. She earned her master’s degree in journalism at University of Missouri journalism school. (Twitter: @MarinaWalkerG)
Frederik Obermaier is an investigative reporter for the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s leading broadsheet. He is one of the two reporters first contacted by the anonymous source of the Panama Papers, the leaked documents that prompted a global investigation involving hundreds of journalists. That coverage won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. Obermaier, together with his colleague Bastian Obermayer, also initiated the Paradise Papers investigations. Obermaier is member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and has been involved in other large investigations such as Offshore Leaks, Bahamas Leaks, Luxembourg Leaks and Swiss Leaks. His awards include the CNN Journalist Award, the George Polk Award and the German Wächterpreis. Obermaier is the author of several books including the “Panama Papers.” As a 2017/2018 fellow at The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, Obermaier is studying how to probe the global implications of tax havens, with a focus on the role of banks, lawyers, wealth managers and consulting firms.
P Vaidyanathan Iyer (Vaidy) is part of the leadership team at The Indian Express, an English language daily newspaper, headquartered in Delhi. He leads the national political and economic policy reporting team for the newspaper. The Indian Express has been ICIJ’s sole media partner in India for over a decade. Vaidy specializes in investigating the link between politics and policies. His awards include the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Investigative Reporting for the Panama Papers coverage, the Prem Bhatia Memorial Award for ‘best political reporting’ in 2016, the KCK Kulish Award of Merit for Excellence in Print Journalism in 2012. among others. He is currently an Edward Mason Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School pursuing a Mid-Career Masters in Public Administration and a recipient of the William A Starr Innovations Fellowship.
Samantha Henry is the assistant director for programming and special projects at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, where she oversees a regular series of seminars, conferences and training workshops for Nieman Fellows and the larger journalism community. Prior to joining Nieman, she was an award-winning reporter for several news organizations, including The Associated Press, CNN and multiple newspapers, as well as a media specialist at The United Nations. She is also currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School. (Twitter: @SamanthaHenry)
About the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard:
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard educates leaders in journalism and elevates the standards of the profession through special programs that convene scholars and experts in all fields. More than 1,500 journalists from 96 countries have been awarded Nieman Fellowships since 1938. The foundation’s other initiatives include Nieman Reports, a quarterly print and online magazine that covers thought leadership in journalism; Nieman Lab, a website that reports on the future of news, innovation and best practices in the digital media age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling.