Maeve McClenaghan – senior investigator Greenpeace

Andrea Purgatori – president of Greenpeace Italy

Giuseppe Onufrio – head of Greenpeace Italy

The conversation regarding the topic of journalistic investigation of environmental issues started off with Giuseppe Onufrio referring to the “Watergate case” and its major consequences for the history of investigative journalism. In 2015, according to Reporters without borders, 110 journalists were killed. 67 of them were killed in conflict areas, 43 died because of “mysterious reasons”. This profession is facing big risks and also journalism and environment are closely integrated.

Maeve McClenaghan presented the main features of the investigative bureau she is working at. The project is funded in order to promote investigations. Greenpeace UK new investigative team is one of the novelties, as the participants of the discussion agreed.

As Andrea Purgatori stated, the topic of investigations of environmental issues is “a subject matter to be studied at journalism schools on all levels”.

The mission of investigative journalism is to use lens, figuratively speaking, to keep an eye at major social institutes, also look out for corruption, deviation.

As Andrea Purgatori said, the “original sin”, which prevented investigative journalism from development in Italy, is the conflict of interest between the publishers and the media. He also pointed out, that it is impossible to imagine some factory to own media in the UK or the USA. In case of Italy such a conflict of interests prevents journalism from keeping to its original mission.

Despite of the existing difference between Italy and other European, a new form of investigative journalism is developing under the form of consortium, which “the new form of a very special journalism”, which is more consolidated in emerging countries.

The investigative unit in the UK started its work about a year ago and has a team of 4 people. Before this project there was a gap in the media market. Not much investigation was happening in the world of environmental issues”, as Maeve McClenaghan said.

The idea of this unit was to create something credible trustworthy and news packaged so the journalists could easily pick out the stories and develop them.”We are a mix, a mix of individuals”, added Maeve McClenaghan.

At some point the relationship between the the investigations of Greenpeace and newspapers, which publish them, had to overcome the problem of trust, as the panel agreed. “I wondered if journalists would trust what we are doing”, said Maeve McClenaghan. So the team of the project did things data driven, searched for the evidences. The case was, that journalists showed an “amazing openness”.

At the last Paris conference on climate a new agreement was ratified, which is believed to be very important for the climate of the planet. Greenpeace published a survey, the first result of the investigation of the unit. The investigation was carried out undercover, the unit created a fake company and approached 7 different academics with a question whether they could make specific statements. Some of them agreed to do that for money.

That way the investigation has exposed how fossil fuel companies can secretly use the academic sources to manipulate public opinion. The result of this work was published on the site of the unit and became know over the world with the page views more than 34 thousands. It was also published by the traditional media, such as the Guardian, the Independent, etc. The unit had more freedom than a traditional media outlet, especially in going undercover. The bureau was based on the example of Propublica, this model allowed the team to work outside of pressures, do the projects slow and do it without profit. Eventually Greenpeace partnered up with media outlets and gave information for free.

In the future the unit would focus on scoping out different areas, like the UK fishing sector in which fishermen are influenced by big conglomerates. Also as Maeve McClenaghan said, she would like to find a story, that only Greenpeace could investigate and nobody else would have the capacity to investigate it.

Victoria Kolesnichenko