By Kitty von Bertele

Building stronger societies through investigative journalism

Why We Invested: Correctiv

There is a critical need for robust, independent investigative journalism around the world as many regions are experiencing profound change and crisis. Independent investigative journalism serves to uncover wrong-doing and weakened standards and holds power to account. Yet it is in alarming decline, which is exacerbated by a lack of trust, scarce funding, and a growing audience appetite for instant, click-bait ‘news’.

At Luminate, we are committed to tackling some of the root causes of a global deficit in trust, and a focus on strengthening independent media and investigative journalism is at the core of this. This is why we are delighted to announce a $749,500 grant to support the German organisation CORRECTIV as they take steps to further develop the impressive investigative newsroom they have built since launching in 2014.

CORRECTIV is an innovative, data-driven investigative newsroom, which experiments with various ways of telling stories, fusing ‘classical’ investigative journalism, technology, digital tools and art. It was the first non-profit newsroom in Germany and plays a crucial role in an environment where newspapers are closing and newsrooms have less money to devote to investigations. CORRECTIV want to develop and prove a model that means investigative and informative journalism can be made affordable and accessible throughout Germany, and across Europe, and that people are able to participate in their work.

Within their work, CORRECTIV focuses on supporting and enhancing the strength and capacity of local media and communities to run investigations and tell stories that are important. They collaborate (both proactively and reactively) with 50 regional papers to support them and offer resources. This means partnering with them to publish stories, as well as training them in investigation methods and offering access to some of the tools and software they need for particular stories. CORRECTIV also gets access to, and cleans up, data sets for regional media to use because they want to enhance public access to information, and provide training to students and people in different communities to enhance their reach. It is an interesting way of thinking about the sustainability of independent investigative journalism and the structure that it is helpful to develop around that.

Correctiv’s investigation into the significant deterioration in education standards in Dortmund exemplifies its work. The investigation looked at how many school classes were being missed because of a shortage, or absence, of teachers. CORRECTIV crowdsourced the investigation and directly asked people in Dortmund (parents, teachers, and students) about how many classes had been cancelled over a particular month. More than 500 people participated, logging 3,552 class cancellations on a crowd-sourced news platform (users were anonymous but others could see the reported cancellations). CORRECTIV partnered with Dortmund’s daily newspaper, which not only helped with the reporting but could also spread the word to their readers. They found that the number of cancelled classes was double the figure held by the ministry of education (41% to 20%). While this was not a perfect analysis, the investigation prompted the ministry of education to start collecting schools’ official data. The issue became central in the 2017 state election and a new government was elected, with a focus on hiring significant numbers of new teachers and on improving the public school system throughout the state.

CORRECTIV are also developing a variety of new narrative forms to broaden their audience and reach people who are not instinctively interested in in-depth, long form journalism.  They determine, on a case by case basis, which is the most appropriate medium for the story or message they want to convey. These range from articles and long form pieces, to books, radio shows, theatre and television. For example, their production of a graphic novel – White Wolves (Weisse Wölfe) tells the story of their investigation into a gang of Nazi extremists from the Ruhr area. The production had wide interest and was turned into a touring exhibition that visited 30 German cities. More details about their work and its scope can be found on their website

Our grant is designed to allow the team to continue the impressive work they have been doing, and to assess how they are most effectively having impact. We believe that the increased strength and sustainability of CORRECTIV will lead to better informed citizens who feel more equipped to engage in public debate, which in turn contributes to a free and fair society. We are thrilled to be working with CORRECTIV and look forward to sharing more of their work over the course of this grant.