David Kaplan: “We Are Changing This World One Story At a Time”

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Photo: Harald A. Stolt-Nielsen.

​​​​​David E. Kaplan, Executive Director of the Global Investigative Journalism Network, gave this welcome speech at the Opening Plenary of the Global Investigative Journalism Conference, on October 8, 2015. 

When the first Global Investigative Journalism Conference was held in 2001, the organizers didn’t know if anyone would come. Some 300 did, from 30 countries. But few would have guessed that we would be here 14 years later, 900 strong, from a record 120 countries. Our co-founders, Brant Houston and Nils Mulvad, saw the potential back in 2001 – for collaboration, great stories, and state of the art training — but even they are surprised.

“I never imagined it would develop into what it is today,” Nils told me. “This ended up being the most important thing I’ve contributed to in my career. We didn’t know it at the time. It’s just what happened.”

We all feel that way. But, of course, it didn’t just happen. It took enormous hard work Since 2001, we’ve brought together and trained nearly 6000 journalists in 9 conferences in 7 cities on 3 continents. We’ve trained an entire generation of investigative and data journalists, and spread investigative reporting around the world.

And despite all the obstacles challenges put in our way – by corrupt officials, repressive governments, org crime, crooked businessmen… Despite all the threats and intimidation, the lawsuits, prison sentences, and violent attacks… We are growing and getting stronger.

We are, in fact, bigger, better connected, and doing more hard-hitting journalism in more places than ever before.

The reason is you. It’s because you have created a global community in which investigative journalism is not just a profession – it’s a calling.

What is happening here is much bigger than just another conference. Our conferences have always been about something more. We are the focal point of a global movement that believes in the accountability of power, in journalism in the public interest.

Events like GIJC15 do not happen without hundreds of people helping. So many contributed it’s impossible to thank them all. But bear with me and let me name a few.

First, you heard me mention Brant Houston and Nils Mulvad, co-founders of both this conference and GIJN, the global network that supports it. Thank you, gentlemen.

Also, a big thank you to everyone involved in our previousconferences for getting us here – the original members of GIJN and conference organizers from Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Toronto, Lillehammer, Geneva, Kiev and Rio.

To our friends at SKUP we say: Tusen takk! Especially Jan Gunnar Furuly, Jens Egil Heftoy, John Bones, Maren Saebo, and the rest of the SKUP community who worked so hard to make this event happen.

Thank you a hundred times. We are indebted to you. You provided invaluable support not just to the two conferences youhosted, but also to those in Kiev and Rio.

Next, a big thanks to GIJN’s board of directors – we have 15 great journalists from 11 countries elected to our board and they are nearly all here.

Of course GIJN’s work would not be possible without our greatstaff: Gabriela Manuli in Budapest, Wendy Zhou and Elaine Wang in Hong Kong, Bridget Gallagher and Gary Price in the U.S.

Huge thanks to our donors: it’s fair to say that the Global Conferences and GIJN would not exist were it not for the OSFmedia program. I hope, OSF, that you are as proud as we are.

Also, big thanks to Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Adessium Foundation, who have been there for us in conference after conference. Also the Ford, Logan, Fritt Ord, Renaissance International and Konrad Adenauer foundations, and Google. To Norsk Journalistag, Schibsted  Media Group, Aftenposten, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Grid Arendal, and UNESCO.

Thanks, too, to GIJN’s member

organizations, who have stepped up to make these events true collaborations by investing their money and people into them. Thanks to Brazil’s Abraji, the DartCenter for Journalism & Trauma, the International Center for Journalists, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, International Media Support, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Korea’s Newstapa, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Ukraine’s Regional Press Development Institute, and Denmark’s Scoop.

And we have a six nation team covering this conference in four languages, from Norway’s Volda University, the International Anti-Corruption Conference, SKUP, and GIJN.

Finally, to all of you — a huge thank you! We were tough on asking you to pay registration fees this year. Even speakers were pushed to pay. It was not popular. But you responded. GIJN doesnot charge dues to our members. We provide our services free to investigative journalists worldwide. It takes more than $500k to org a conference like this. We have about 900 people here. SKUP and GIJN helped bring nearly 200 of them, from a record 120 countries. We needed your help to do that, and you responded. Thank you!

Don’t ever doubt that we are making a difference. We see it every day.

In an evaluation of our last conference in Rio, Jens Heftoy made a memorable remark: “These conferences,” he wrote, “are more important than we can imagine.” I couldn’t agree more. Here’s why:

1) You’re not alone. You have friends and supporters around the world. And we will help you.

2) The world is one story now. Network. Collaborate and conspire. Some of the greatest stories of the next two years are being talked about in the hallways and bars of this hotel this week.

3) Take these ideas home with you and spread them: on new models and old; great story ideas; access to data and documents; the latest tech tips and tools; strategies to keep us safe and secure.

We are a good virus spreading around the world. Call it why you want: accountability journalism, watchdog reporting, muckraking, investigative journalism. We are the future, and if societies and govts want to progress, they will have to deal with an investigative press.

So let me get out of the way and let’s get this thing going.

Once again, a big warm welcome and thank you. We are changing this world one story at a time, and it’s great you are along on this amazing ride.

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