Different Types of Cross-Border Journalism

By Vlad Odobescu, Anne Sofie Hoffmann Schrøder, Ada Petriczko and Vedrana Simicevic.

How to develop your idea depends on the type of story you have. Framework and structure are key.

Meet a journalist for coffee and you’ll fill a notebook with story ideas by the end of the discussion. We extract our ideas from the news, discussions with friends or sources, or even on holiday. After a while, many of these ideas are forgotten on a piece of paper or stored away in a folder on your laptop called “Story ideas.” A common reason for this is that new projects are daunting. The process seems too complicated, especially if it includes a cross-border angle: Who am I going to work with? How can I make this story relevant to a larger audience? What additional questions should I have in mind? What will the outcome of this story be?

I always find that it helps categorise story ideas as and when they emerge. Once you fit a story idea into a certain category, it becomes much more manageable: each category is attached to a specific process and structure, which helps to create the framework for your story.

There are broadly five categories (or “shapes, as I call them) into which you can fit any story idea. Each has a set of implications and requires a different set of journalistic instruments. They are:

a. The all-important stories
b. The international thread stories
c. The problem/solutions stories
d. Connecting the dots stories
e. Thematic stories

We are a team of international journalists with experience in cross-border reporting. Below, we illustrate each category with examples, and expanded on them through interviews.

a. The “all-important” stories

In some ways, this is the simplest type of cross-border story. You pick an international problem and study its implications broadly as well as its consequences in individual countries: examples include looking at data protection in Europe; tracking the budget of the UEFA EURO 2020 Cup; or comparing the rise of far-right movements across the continent. You should be able to find answers in all countries you are investigating. The more countries you include, the better. The roles for team members are similar in each country. The important thing is to detect trans-national trends or different ways of tackling the same problem.

“Everything changes during the process:” Reporting on the Right To Be Forgotten
An interview with Adrián Blanco by Vlad Odebescu

Adrián Blanco is a data journalist and graphics reporter at the Washington Post. He previously worked at the data unit of the Spanish newspaper El Confidencial and he studied at Columbia Journalism School. He participated in the Paradise Papers investigation, initiated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. In 2015, Blanco worked on The Right to be Forgotten project, together with an international team of journalists.

Vlad Odobescu: What was the initial idea of this project?

Adrián Blanco: Everything started when a colleague of mine accidentally found some data on the right to be forgotten, in the code of a website. So this information was on the website, but it was not visible. She sent pitches to The Guardian and ended up writing an article about this. I discussed the subject with her and we thought it would be interesting to have a wider focus on the right to be forgotten in Europe. At the time, not many people had heard about this right.

So we started working together on this. We got in touch with specific journalists in a specific country who were interested in covering this. We wrote the proposal, we got in touch with more journalists, and we created the team. Then the process was a little bit of a mess, because in the middle of the project my initial colleague decided to leave. She was coordinating everything, so we had to pivot and rearrange everything. But finally we were able to publish the piece.

Vlad Odobescu: How did you select the countries that you would focus on?

Adrián Blanco: In general, for all cross-border projects I have worked on, you choose the team depending on the topic. In general, if it's a cross-border project which covers all of Europe, there are always some countries where for some reason there's more interest in that topic. Or there are more specialized journalists in that country. It's a mix of everything, in terms of skills, knowledge, but also the level of interest in that specific country. So I guess once you have the topic that you want to cover, I think it's easier to target some journalists in a specific country.

Vlad Odobescu: I would expand a bit on the roles. Sometimes we're working with journalists that we don't know, we don't know their abilities, we don't know their characters. Did you try to establish clear roles for each member of the team or did you try to keep it as flexible as possible?

Adrián Blanco: I tried to keep it as flexible as possible. When you work on a cross-border project, either you work with people you know or you trust that they will contribute well to the project. But usually you don't know everyone, you don't know how they work and what's going to happen during the process. In general, and because I work mainly on stories that involve data, I try to look for other data-savvy people, so that we’re all on the same page.

Vlad Odobescu: How did the initial idea change during the research process?

Adrián Blanco: It's a very specific project, because we had this data, but we were dependent on Google and needed to talk to them and interview them properly. That delayed everything: it took us more than two months to find the right person to talk to at Google. Also, there was lots of back and forth when it came to organising the interview, so that delayed the project even more.

In journalism, you have an idea first: “I would like to do this”. But you always have to remember to be flexible: during the process, things can change unexpectedly.

Vlad Odobescu: You obtained a lot of information. How did you organise the data?

Adrián Blanco: It depends on the project and the database you are working with. On this project, for example, we had data, but it was not a huge database. We were able to manage it with Google Sheets and Air Table. But for other projects, we put the data on Cloud in order to be able to pull it and do the analysis and do the changes or push the changes to the server so that anybody can access it. Anyone can then use the software or the code they are most used to, like R or Python. But I think basic knowledge of Excel or spreadsheets is enough for this kind of project.

Vlad Odobescu: How difficult is it when all the team members have access to the info and maybe they have different ways of dealing with it?

Adrián Blanco: That's always a problem. What we usually do in the beginning, and before analysing the data, is to design the database and agree on some common rules that determine how we are going to use the data.

Vlad Odobescu: I'm also curious about how you extracted conclusions and picked highlights from the data.

Adrián Blanco: In general, we come out with our summaries or conclusions for each country. Usually we are in charge of one, two or three countries. We put that together and from there, once we see the conclusions that everyone has reached we decide: “OK, let's focus on this angle for the main story on Europe, and then each one can work on a specific story or on a specific series of stories on their countries.” Then we'll have the umbrella story, that will cover the whole situation in Europe, and then we'll have a specific story about each country which will be published in that country or which will be added to the main project, depending on whether we can reach a bigger audience.

Vlad Odobescu: What was the rhythm of work for this story. Did you have weekly meetings or did you try to meet physically at some point?

Adrián Blanco: We met once in person, at the beginning of the project, in Berlin, for three days. We brainstormed about the project, came up with a plan, did some sketches for the visuals, and basically organised the work for each country. For this particular project, this was really worth it: afterwards, we continued collaborating and working together because we started getting to know each other better, so I think meeting in person was really helpful.

Then we had bi-weekly meetings via Skype, to talk about the status of our work, put everything together and rearrange the information, when needed, until we published the story. We published it four years ago. I think now things are easier, in terms of collaborating, because I find Slack very useful in order to keep in touch with everyone. You can avoid conference calls and you can access the data faster.

Vlad Odobescu: One colleague told me that it's not so difficult to work with journalists from different countries, but it is tricky to work with publishing platforms with different agendas, different priorities and different types of editing. How was it for you? Did the journalists in every country have to deal with the publication in his or her country or did you have a strategy for that?

Adrián Blanco: That's the worst part. Usually, you're dealing with your own paper, your own editor, and the editor knows his newspaper. In general, they don't care at all about most of the project, or keeping track of how other newspapers are doing, they're like: “OK, you take care of that and we'll publish the story when it’s done". The worst part is that usually the editors are not in the calls, they don't take part in the project. So the responsibility falls on the reporter working on the project. Days before publishing, it's usually a mess and it's a nightmare. Dealing with journalists: yes, that's no problem, because they are committed to the project.

Vlad Odobescu: What would you recommend for people who want to get engaged in a project similar to this one?

Adrián Blanco: I would say: try to adjust as much as possible the idea you have before applying for the grant. Have a good research plan: know how many people you need in each country. Create a list with the people you are going to reach out to. Create a short written pitch, in order to explain the idea. It will help you discuss with the journalists interested in the project. The better you research the idea, the less you're going to have to worry about during the process. Unexpected things are going to come out, but the more you know about the story, the easier it's going to be for you to adapt, get in touch with experts and create a team interested in the story. No matter how it goes, you're going to have something in the end. Feel confident during the process when you have to pivot.


“The Chlorpyrifos Case” (2018-2019)
By Staffan Dahloff, Wojciech Ciesla, Kristof Clerix, Anuška Delić, Pamela G. Dempsey, Eiliv Frich Flydal, Stephane Horel, Oluf Jørgensen, Nils Mulvad, Marcos García Rey

What is this project / story about?

An insecticide called Chlorpyrifos was widely used in most European countries until December 2019, despite overwhelming evidence of its negative effects on human health. The international team unveiled the scale of Chlorpyrifos use and detailed the public health risks. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

The series is built mainly around studies and experts. After detailing the scientific evidence on the effects of Chlorpyrifos, the team confronted the producers of the chemical, as well as the regulatory bodies which approved the use of the substance.

What makes it a cross-border story?

At the time of publishing the series, in June 2019, the insecticide was legal in most EU countries. There was little public knowledge about the effects of this substance, so a discussion about its effects on public health became the starting point. From there, every publication involved analysed the spread of the substance and the reactions of authorities and retailers in their country.

The investigation was initiated by two media organizations in Denmark: The Investigative Reporting Denmark and Danwatch, and became a collaborative project involving journalists from Knack in Belgium, Le Monde in France, Dagbladet in Norway, Newsweek in Poland, Ostro in Slovenia, El Confidencial in Spain, and The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting in the United States.

How is the information organized?

The project was organised into two parts: the first section looked at the situation across the European Union (EU), while in the second part, each publication documented the use of the pesticide at a local level. El Confidencial collected interviews with researchers and doctors. Danwatch wrote about the limits imposed by retailers on the level of Chlorpyrifos in the products they are selling and included infographics.

In order to help the reader deal with the high amount of information, the team created a list of take-aways, which consisted of short conclusions of the research.


“Confiscated Goods in Europe” (2015)
By Andrea Nelson Mauro, Daniele Grasso, Gianluca de Martino, Alessio Cimarelli

What is this project / story about?

Each year, the Ministries of Interior and Justice in EU countries confiscate goods worth almost 4 billion euros. There is also a European directive on joint jurisdiction, but real monitoring on this phenomenon doesn’t exist. There is little information about these assets, so we don’t have a complete picture on confiscated goods. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

Our focus was on statistics (where available) about the quantity and the nature of goods, and on different pieces of legislation concerning confiscated goods. However, the project also featured characters. L’Espresso presented the situation of Giampietro Paleari, an Italian citizen charged for doing business with the 'Ndrangheta, who continued to live in his confiscated villa and even rented it during holidays. El Confidencial presented the story of Raffaele Amato, an Italian Camorra boss who was arrested in 2005. His land in Malaga was confiscated in 2009, but it hadn’t yet been put up for sale at the time the story was published.

What makes it a cross-border story?

Though the team was all-Italian, the data project focused on five European countries, each with its own peculiarities when it comes to confiscation and freezing of assets: France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the UK.

How is the information organized?

In January 2016, one of the team members, Andrea Nelson Mauro, talked to the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) about organizing the investigation. The crucial part was gathering the data from 5 countries (at a regional level) and understanding the details of the legislation. The team used infographics to make the information easy to use. The core investigation, published on a dedicated website, is structured in five chapters, looking at what happens to confiscated goods at a European level, what types of goods are confiscated and why, and at anomalies in applying the law. In the last chapter, the team hones in on the five selected countries and looks at their respective legislation concerning confiscation.


“The Right To Be Forgotten” (2015-2017)
By Adrián Blanco, Marian Männi, Markus Hametner, Zoltán Sipos, Ana Isabel Carvalho and Ricardo Lafuente

What is this project / story about?

An international team of journalists studied the effects of the Right to be Forgotten (RTBF), a rule passed by the European Court of Justice in 2014. According to this concept, citizens can ask search engines such as Google to remove their personal information from the list of links it displays if they consider that information irrelevant or offensive. The six journalists studied the effects of the RTBF on media organizations across Europe, focusing on controversies around the delinked articles and on future challenges. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

The story focused mainly on data analysis of stories published by Austrian, British, German, Spanish, Finnish and Lithuanian publications. The only character presented in the project was Mario Costeja Gonzalez, the Spanish citizen who initiated the lawsuit against Google in 2009 that led to the RTBF ruling. The journalists also talked to representatives of Google and national institutions dealing with data protection.

What makes it a cross-border story?

The project studied the effects of a decision that is valid for all EU countries. The data, which was obtained from publications in six countries, showed variations in how the RTBF is applied in each country. In this sense, it’s a typical “all important story:” taking an international problem and analysing its specific implications in each country.

How is the information organized?

The team members gathered delinked articles from media outlets across Europe. After they obtained a database with 429 articles, they created 6 categories, according to the topic covered in the article: Business, Crime, Personal, Politics, Extremism and Youth. They analysed what types of articles were delinked in each country and presented the information with the help of text and graphics. The team created a website with the findings, which also contained a form asking readers to present their own RTBF case or story.


  • These types of stories usually focus less on characters and more on statistics, studies and legislation.
  • The “all-important” stories usually go from general (for instance, what’s the situation in Europe on topic X?) to particular situations (what are the specific implications of this issue in country Y?).
  • Comparisons between countries are important, and usually infographics are used for this purpose.

b. The international thread stories

This type of story identifies a complex problem and traces its roots and effects internationally. A good example would be a story I worked for in 2017, together with colleagues from Slovenia, Malta and Latvia: the Russian oligarch Oleg Boyko created a financial empire using Malta as a tax haven while earning vast profits from companies specialised in short-term, high-cost loans granted to Europe's most vulnerable citizens. (The story is available here). The risk with such a story is losing the audience while explaining a complicated business scheme. Our approach was different: we started by following the money back from a Romanian client who had borrowed €175 for his cancer treatment, but was forced to pay back much more because of hidden details in the contract. We then traced this loan back to Boyko’s business, built on tax avoidance and complicated schemes. Dealing with such a piece requires a different set of skills and different tasks for each member of the team. For instance, my Slovenian colleague Blaz Zgaga dealt with the investigative part, while I was looking for the human stories at the other end. This category is well suited for stories about migration, corruption, tax avoidance or human trafficking, for instance.

“I realised that this was a huge topic, with a much more complicated picture than in the UK:” Reporting on who promotes the Kremlin’s agenda within the EU
An interview with Sarah Hurst and Tom Miles by Anne-Sofie Schrøder

Sarah Hurst is a British freelance journalist covering Russia since 1990 for publications such as The Times, The Sunday Telegraph, and Byline Times. She has worked full-time for BBC Monitoring and Reuters.

Tom Miles is a former Chief Correspondent at Reuters.

They worked on the project “The Kremlin’s European Favourites” with Christo Grozev.

Anne Sofie Schrøder: What was the initial idea of this project?

Sarah Hurst: To investigate people across Europe who promote Kremlin viewpoints or in other ways assist the Kremlin with its agenda, talk to them and try to find out what motivates them.

Anne Sofie Schrøder: How did you select the countries that you would focus on during your investigation?

Sarah Hurst: We based them on the location of our team members—I'm in the UK, so I was covering the UK and Ireland, Christo is in Austria covering Central Europe, and Tom is in France covering that country.
Tom Miles: We split up the countries to try to get a variety and to give each of us some countries that we knew. I have been living in France and working in Switzerland for the past 9 years and so I agreed to look at France and Switzerland. Other than that it was very flexible, and up to us.

Anne Sofie Schrøder: Regarding team roles—did you try to establish clear roles for each member of the team or did you try to keep it as flexible as possible?

Sarah Hurst: We mainly wrote our articles separately and did our own research but discussed what we had been doing and checked each other's work.

Anne Sofie Schrøder: Did the initial idea of the investigation change during the research process? If yes, how?

Tom Miles: Yes, my plans were completely ruined by Covid—originally I had planned to hunt round Geneva and try to track down specific people in France between March and June, but this turned out to be a time when I was 100% at home supervising my kids (and dealing with post-Covid symptoms) so I was extremely busy and ended up doing little work on the Russia project. I also realised that although I live in France, I had a lot of research to do because I had not previously reported on French politics or French public affairs, and I found I was quite ignorant about the situation. So I started from scratch, researching Russian connections and trying to get an overview of the situation. I realised that this was a huge topic, with a much more complicated picture than in the UK, which I am very familiar with. I read two recent books on Russian influence in France—La France Russe by Nicolas Hénin and Les Réseaux du Kremlin en France by Cecile Vaissie—and took detailed notes about the names of people and organisations.

Anne Sofie Schrøder: How did you organize the information you obtained?

Tom Miles: I put all the information into an Excel spreadsheet (my favoured method of organising things). I added more as I researched further, including some books, but mainly from online sources. I ended up with more than 200 names of individuals and a few dozen organisations on my list, and I have no doubt there were many others I never came across. I found this quite a bewilderingly large group, and there were many leads I left unfollowed. Ideally, I would have drawn up a graphic showing the interconnections between the people on my list, which I think could have demonstrated how a few key people and organisations connect to everyone else, but there were so many links and so many people were linked in different ways, that I found it very difficult to conceptualise and I lacked the computer skills to do some sort of clever automatic graphing of who knows who. I also approached several people I wanted to interview but got no luck—most never replied, and one Swiss-French-Russian contact responded by saying he thought the project was prejudiced. (See below*)

Anne Sofie Schrøder: What was the rhythm of work for this story. Did you have weekly meetings or did you try to meet physically at some point?

Tom Miles: The three of us on the project kept vaguely in touch by email and WhatsApp and tried to give updates on our plans every two months, but this was difficult during the Covid lockdown, as it was hard to make plans and stick to them. I scaled back my plans and decided to try to sum up my findings in one article that would explain the overall situation of Putin’s supporters in France, because I felt there were some interesting and surprising lessons to draw from my research that might be instructive to people (like me a few months ago) who had no understanding of this situation. I wanted to write something useful and insightful, not target a particular person who appeared to be pro-Putin because his company was doing profitable business in Russia. I was also wary of the risk of libelling individuals, especially if they did not respond to my requests for comment on allegations about their pro-Putin stance, so I was reluctant to dig deep into individual situations.

Anne Sofie Schrøder: What was your strategy for publication in different platforms?

Sarah Hurst: Articles by me and Tom were published by Byline Times and articles by Christo were published by Bellingcat. We also promoted the articles via our Twitter accounts.

* Note from Tom Miles: To quote from his email: “The conclusions have been written before the investigation. The anti-Russian bias is so obvious that it would be impossible to have a fair report or discussion. I consider Bellingcat not as a free and fair journalism investigative team but as a propaganda outlet subsidized by US intelligence and State Department funds (and Britain ones) and using former journalists weakened by the huge media crisis in the West, in order to discredit non mainstream opinions and fight against Russian soft power in the West. Exactly like the media manipulations organized by White Helmets (by chance completely discredited and forgotten now) in Syria. So I’m not exactly ready to participate to this kind of information war which will only present me as a Putin’s agent or a Putin Versteher as say the Germans (nothing to do with that!)”


“Exporting Fraud: How a Scam on Public Hospitals in Malta Reached the Poorest, Most Corrupt European Countries” (2019)
By Caroline Muscat, Alice Taylor, Ryan Murdoch

What is this project / story about?

The project revealed how Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH), a Maltese-based company, and Steward Healthcare, an American firm, are working together in Balkan states to replicate a scandalous deal in Malta where VGH, having no prior experience in the field, won a 99-year concession to run three Maltese hospitals in a contract worth a staggering €7 billion. VGH were then given €51ml of Maltese taxpayers’ money, with the last instalment being announced by the government the day before VGH was sold to an American company, Steward Healthcare. Despite being bailed out by taxpayers to the tune of tens of millions, VGH did not deliver on a single promise, such as providing additional beds in state hospitals, refurbishing various premises, or paying salaries from their own pockets. A key company in the VGH group also faced bankruptcy charges in the British Virgin Islands, which has led to three Ministers coming under criminal investigation. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

The main characters are the two companies as well as the ministers under investigation.

What makes it a cross-border story?

The story is cross-border, as it reveals how a scandalous deal in Malta is also happening in Montenegro and Albania.

How is the information organised? The project consists of various articles published by The Shift News (1, 2 & 3), a Maltese investigative platform, Exit.al (1, 2 & 3), an independent Albanian media outlet, and Dan online, an online newspaper in Montenegro, and contains videos, documentation of the sales agreements and contracts and photos of the money trail.


“How multinational tech companies exploit tax laws and shift profits: a focus on Ghana and Nigeria” (2020)
By Gideon Sarpong

What is this project / story about?

The story exposes how major tech companies, Facebook and Google, use tax havens to avoid payment of taxes in Nigeria and Ghana, depriving these countries of revenues which could be invested in underfunded areas. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

The main characters are Google and Facebook, Charles Edosomwan, chief Strategist at Teksight Edge Ltd, a digital communications agency based in Lagos, William Ansah, CEO of Origin 8, a leading advertising company in West Africa, and the lawyer George Agyemang Sarpong.

What makes it a cross-border story?

The story is cross-border, as it reveals how multinational tech companies exploit tax laws in both Ghana and Nigeria.

How is the information organised? The project consists of articles published by Askifa.ng (not available online) and iWatch Africa.


“The Kremlin’s European Favourites” (2020)
By Sarah Hurst, Christo Grozev, Tom Miles

What is this project / story about?

This project is about the people in Europe who promote Putin’s and the Kremlin’s agenda—from supporting the breakup of the EU to pushing for the removal of sanctions on Russia. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

One of the main characters in the first articles in the project is the British far right activist Tommy Robinson. We documented his visit to Russia along with a group of British academics who are trying to “reframe Russia.”

What makes it a cross-border story?

It is a cross-border story, as Putin tries to influence European politics by supporting far-right groups as well as individual politicians in countries such as the UK, Germany and North Macedonia.

How is the information organised? The project consists of various articles published by Byline Times (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5) and Bellingcat (1 & 2), starting with the stories about Tommy Robinson and the group of UK academics, and continuing with stories about the 2020 parliamentary election in North Macedonia.


  • Stories about complex international financial schemes and political connections fit well in this category.
  • Typically, we find the source of the problem in one country and the effects in another country (or countries).
  • Because they are usually very complex, the focus of the story might change significantly during research, as you find new evidence that completes the picture.

c. Problem/solution stories

In short: one country encounters a problem that another country has already solved or has a possible solution to. In this case, you need to examine both strategies, compare them and extract some conclusions. This was the initial recipe for a story I’m currently working on together with two Italian colleagues: the idea was to explore slot machine addiction in a former mining area in Romania and compare it to the situation in an Italian region which had also been afflicted by this phenomenon, but where it was reigned in with the help of local NGOs. However, we needed to recalibrate our project because after my Italian colleagues dug in some more, they realized that the experience of that town was not illustrative for their country, and that there is a much broader national program in Italy to tackle gambling addiction. So we decided to talk about our countries in parallel and add a European approach to our piece. These problem/solution stories, as I call them here, have a clear focus on one country, while the second or third one serve as examples of possible outcomes, if a set of policies are applied. The important thing here is to keep the parallel reasonable: it would be difficult to compare Finland and Romania, for instance, because the cultural gaps are huge and the solutions might be inapplicable.

“We wanted the story to be constructive, focusing on solutions, rather than just portraying a problem:” Reporting on community-led initiatives to stop climate change
An interview with Michele Catanzaro and Vera Novais by Vedrana Simicevic

Michele Catanzaro is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona, writing about science, environment, health and technology, but also covering affairs related to justice and organized crime. He regularly works for a number of media outlets in the UK, Spain, Italy, and Mexico, most notably for El Periódico de Catalunya, Nature and Le Scienze. His work has been recognized by several awards like the King of Spain International Journalism Prize and the European Science Writer of the Year Award (2016).

Vera Novais is a science and health journalist at the Portuguese online newspaper Observador. Her articles have also appeared in international media outlets like New Scientist.

These two experienced science journalists won The Climate investigation grant in 2018 for their cross-border project “Grassroots for climate” through which they investigated whether community-led initiatives may be a solution for climate change-related problems.

Vedrana Simicevic: What was the initial idea of this project?

Michele Catanzaro: Vera and I had known each other for some time, when we thought it would be interesting to carry out cross border projects involving Spain and Portugal, which are neighbouring countries that share a lot of environmental problems. We had already carried out a project on the Iberian Lynx, when the Climate Grants call appeared. So we thought we would apply, made a brainstorm, and found that the role of communities in fighting climate change was something that had yet to be explored journalistically, and that the Iberian peninsula was an interesting case study for it, for a number of reasons. It was also clear from the beginning that we wanted the story to be constructive, focusing on solutions, rather than on just portraying a problem.

Vedrana Simicevic: Did you change or adapt the idea during the project?

Michele Catanzaro: We didn't start the project with a preconceived idea. There were signs of many community-led movements against climate change, but we approached these with journalistic scepticism and tried to see how effective these actually were. The overall idea of the project did not change, but our picture of the situation and our answer to the basic question emerged from the investigation.

Vera Novais: More than adapting the idea, we were building it up while doing more research, finding different solutions that could fit our work. Because the topic was absolutely new, we were learning about it along the way.

Vedrana Simicevic: How difficult was it to structure a story around community-led climate change initiatives and show their level of impact?

Michele Catanzaro: Community stories have the advantage that they involve regular people, often with a strong commitment to an ideal, and carrying out unusual projects. So we knew we could find interesting stories that would draw attention to the more abstract underlying question. The main challenge was selecting those stories that were more than individual anecdotes, but were big enough in size and had a strong enough track-record to be considered as case-studies.

Vera Novais: The first task was to find out how many communities across the Iberian Peninsula had ongoing climate-change initiatives. It was surprising to discover what a big number of community-led initiatives there were, but we also realised how hard it was going to be to pick the best examples. We tried to choose a diverse range of examples, some better known than others, that could be used as case-studies.

Vedrana Simicevic: How did you ultimately choose the best “solution” examples?

Michele Catanzaro: As said above, we chose those that were more likely to be thorough case-studies. We also chose stories based on their human narrative and visual potential, in order to catch the attention of the reader.

Vera Novais: Agreeing with Michele, I should also add that although some solutions were common in general, like using solar energy or improving soil water retention, communities adapt those solutions to their own realities, which, to some extent, makes it harder to scale up the solution. It is possible to replicate in other communities with some adaptations, but hard to increase it in size—from a community to a region, for example.

Vedrana Simicevic: Which sources of information proved to be most useful for the story?

Michele Catanzaro: There is an active academic community that works with climate activists and community projects, and they have done some work in listing the most interesting projects, comparing them, bringing them together, etc. That work was the ground on which we built, beyond inputs we got from our reporting before and during the project.

Vedrana Simicevic: Did you establish clear roles inside the team or did you try to keep them flexible?

Michele Catanzaro: Vera looked more into Portugal and I looked mainly at Spain, but we constantly shared information and “pollinized” each other’s work.

Vera Novais: Actually, I also visited two communities in Spain and he visited one community in Portugal. What this means is that we were both totally engaged with the project, always in contact, available all the time to adapt our tasks, and truly working as a team filling each other’s gaps.

Vedrana Simicevic: How much information that you gathered did you use in the end?

Michele Catanzaro: A lot of it remained unused for a set of different reasons, and we have talked of following up to take advantage of the expertise and contacts we have obtained, and also to have a perspective in time of the evolution of the issue.

Vedrana Simicevic: Drawing on experience from this project, what would you recommend to other journalists who want to do a cross-border collaboration?

Michele Catanzaro: It’s very important to trust each other and have similar values. Also, it’s important to try to be ordered and establish some protocols and habits (e.g. regular meetings) to work in an efficient way.

Vera Novais: Trusting each other and having common ground is surely the most important thing to make the project flow successfully. Always be honest, share difficulties and obstacles, discuss the topics you don’t totally agree on to find the best compromise, and bring the best out of each other. Knowing that it is not easy to get it in advance, it is really important to have some media interested in your work even before it is ready, because you may have trouble publishing it afterwards. Also, be sure that you set a realistic timetable that you are able to stick to.


“These 3 super-trees can protect us from climate collapse” (2019)
By Eliza Barclay, Umair Irfan, and Tristan McConnell, Victor Moriyama, Ardiles Rante, and Sarah Waiswa

What is this project / story about?

Vox.com reporters teamed up with photographers in Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo to report on what are called “super-trees,” which play an outsize role in maintaining their respective ecosystems. The story is a deep dive into how these trees benefit the world and how scientists are trying to protect them. So the problem here was climate change, and the solution we focused on was the preservation of particular species of trees. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

The main characters are trees in three different countries and the scientists whose research centres on them.

What makes it a cross-border story?

The story is set in three different countries on three different continents, showing the benefit of different ecosystems for the whole world.

How is the information organized?

The main story that covers all three countries has a strong visual approach with lots of pictures, graphics and animations, which makes it a very compelling and easily accessible project. In addition, there are three stories which dive deeper into the specifics of the different countries and are more text based.


“The Global Effort to Find and Treat Children With Cancer” (2019)
By Kevin Drew, Steve Sternberg, Gaby Galvin, Ting Shi, Prue Clarke, Abby Sewell, Yue Wu, Carielle Doe, Jacques Nkinzingabo, Natalie Naccache, Nadia Bseiso

What is this project / story about?

This project centres on efforts in different countries around the globe to improve care for children with cancer, with an explicit solutions angle. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

The main characters are the scientists and doctors on the frontline, helping kids with cancer as well as the patients and their families.

What makes it a cross-border story?

The project is a series of stories from the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the US, covering a problem that has a global scale and demonstrating the efforts and possible solutions for the problem in different regions and countries.

How is the information organized?

Different stand-alone stories without any multimedia elements.


“Autark und glücklich: Wie diese Orte die Energiewende geschafft haben” (EN: “Self-sufficient and happy: How these places managed the energy transition”) (2019)
By Michael Riedmüller and Merlin Daleman

What is this project / story about?

Europe has ambitious goals to massively reduce the CO2 emissions of its energy systems as part of its fight against climate change. This story takes a closer look at model communities in different European countries which have successfully reduced their emissions and can provide valuable lessons on how they got there. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

The main characters are the people who were driving the energy transition in their communities.

What makes it a cross-border story?

The story looks at three different communities in Italy, Denmark and Germany, that provide an insight into possible solutions for a Europe-wide effort.


“Así se combate la crisis climática 'desde abajo'” (EN: “This is how to fight the climate crisis 'from below'”) (2019)
By Michele Catanzaro and Vera Novais

What is this project / story about?

In Europe, Spain and Portugal are among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change. Nevertheless, the financial crisis has hampered the capacity of states and companies to undertake ambitious adaptation and mitigation actions. Catanzaro and Novais investigate whether community-led initiatives may be a solution in the fight against climate change. The project was awarded the Climate Research Grant from the AJSPI (French Association for Scientific Journalism) and a grant from the BNP Paribas Foundation, and is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

The main characters are the people that created the communities or live in them, people who found solutions that are environmentally friendly and prioritise sustainability.

What makes it a cross-border story?

The story reports on different community-led initiatives in Portugal and Spain and brings the data and opinions from experts in both countries to assess the impact of these initiatives in tackling climate change.


  • This is cross-border solutions journalism: identify a problem, and find tangible ways of addressing it
  • Case studies are crucial to illustrate different approaches in different places.
  • Solutions that work in one country may be irrelevant to another.

d. “Connecting the dots” stories

Such pieces imply a more complicated narrative. They dig into a very broad topic in various countries, which makes them similar to a certain extent to the “all-important” stories. However, they do not just show different answers to the same questions, but illustrate relevant connections between countries. An example: in 2015, together with colleagues from the UK, Spain and Italy, I researched the European criminal landscape. We examined how many citizens from each EU country are imprisoned in another country and for what types of crimes. The project, called Eurocrimes, is available here. Because of their complexity, such pieces are best told using charts and infographics, while the human stories can accompany the conclusions of those data. During the COVID-19 crisis or after, for example, I would love to read a “connecting the dots” story about the European routes of trucks loaded with medical equipment.

“The process became the story:” Reporting on how European money is spent to curb migration from Africa
An interview with Maite Vermeulen by Vlad Odobescu

Maite Vermeulen is one of the founding editors of the media platform De Correspondent. Maite, who reports on stories across the globe about development, humanitarian aid, international relations and migration, initiated and coordinated the investigation. (Source: JournalismFund.eu)

Vlad Odobescu: What was the initial idea of this project?

Maite Vermeulen: I had been working in Nigeria for about a year and a half. I was a correspondent there, but I wrote only about migration. The way we work at De Correspondent is not based on geography, but on themes. And I wanted to move there because I thought it would be a really good place to see what the effects of European migration policies were on the countries where people were coming from. European migration policies are increasingly focused on preventing people from coming in the first place, as opposed to hosting them and trying to send them back.

As I was doing this work, I got the impression that every European country is doing stuff here, but nobody has an overview. And when I started asking about an overview at the European Commission, for example, nobody seemed to have one. And this was really strange to me. There is something called The European migration policy and politicians constantly refer to it, but nobody is really keeping track of it.

I realised that first of all, I would need someone in Europe to do the part of going to Brussels and talking to people there and finding out what pieces of information would be available within the EU and within different European countries. I also thought it would be really useful to work with a Nigerian journalist, particularly someone in Abuja, the political capital. They could go to all the different ministries that have to do with migration and find out what the role of the Nigerian government is in all this. I thought it would be fair to have somebody who is more connected already rather than me coming in as an outsider. My role was convenient in terms of having easier access to all these international organizations that are working in Nigeria. For a Nigerian journalist, it's harder to get an appointment at the UN organizations, for example.

So I started searching for people. In Nigeria there's not a lot of truly independent media. A lot of newspapers are fully funded by the government, as in, the government buys all the ads, so they're pretty much government owned. But there's this one NGO called The International Centre for Investigative Reporting and I knew their editor-in-chief, so I reached out to him and he said: “This would be great for one of our editors”. And that was Ajibola. I talked to him and he was enthusiastic about the project. Daniel Howden, a journalist who has done a lot on refugee issues and knows a broad network of migration journalists in Europe, connected me to Giacomo. It was also great that Giacomo was Italian, because the Italian government obviously plays a very big role on the European migration issue.

I discussed the idea with both of them, they gave input and together we wrote an application to the Journalism Fund.

Vlad Odobescu: Did you establish clear roles inside the team or did you try to keep them flexible?

Maite Vermeulen: We had clear roles inside the team, but looking back, we could have done things even better. The idea was that Giacomo would do the European part, and would find out every data point on the European side. I would focus on European embassies and international organizations in Nigeria and Ajibola would do the Nigerian government side.

But what was a little bit difficult was that the starting point was to see where the European money was going, and so it ended up that Ajibola and I had to wait a little bit for Giacomo to come up with his first findings. In the end, I also did a lot of the work on the European side, because that part needed to go faster in order for Ajibola and I to do stuff in Nigeria.

What made it difficult to establish clear roles was that I came with the experience of migration journalism, and Giacomo had also been working on migration for years, but for Ajibola this topic was kind of new. He has 25 years of experience as an investigative journalist in Nigeria, but he hadn't worked on migration specifically. That was difficult, in the sense that his network on migration issues in Nigeria was actually not as extensive as I would have hoped for.

A lot of people that Ajibola wanted to talk to or reach out to I had actually already interviewed in the year and a half before that. That blurred the roles a little bit, because I would end up doing a little bit of the work that was on his plate. Also, that made it more difficult for him to really have input at the same level as us. Giacomo and I were already familiar with European funds, for example. There's a lot of them and they have abbreviations, and that was difficult for Ajibola to deal with. We had to do a little more of each other's work than we had anticipated.

Vlad Odobescu: How did the initial idea change during the research process?

Maite Vermeulen: Our initial idea was definitely too big. That became clear soon after we started. So we knew that we had to narrow down at some point. But one of the difficulties was to choose how to narrow it down. What I find most interesting for the Dutch audience may not be the angle that Ajibola would find most interesting for a Nigerian audience. Because De Correspondent was the main outlet, I made most of those decisions (in addition, we got most of the input from our editorial team). The idea was that Giacomo and Ajibola would later use the material for their own angles, for their respective media outlets. I think that didn't happen as much as it could have, because of time reasons, mostly. That was definitely a difficulty. The idea also changed in the sense that we quickly found out that we would never be able to get the overview that we had set out to get. In the first interviews people told us this would be impossible, because there's tons of funds that are not earmarked for a specific country, but for a region and there's no way you're ever going to find out for all these funds which specific part is going to Nigeria. That really influenced the angle of the story, because the story became more about how it's impossible to get this information and that this is ridiculous if you think of the amount of money we're spending. And that also made it a bit easier, because then we could let go of the idea that it would have to be an all-encompassing overview and we could just say: “OK, we spent a couple of months doing this, this is how far we got, this is what we found.”

The process became the story. We had discussed this possibility in the beginning, but it was kind of a Plan B that ended up becoming our main story.

Vlad Odobescu: I'm curious about the process of organising the information that you obtained. How did you deal with it?

Maite Vermeulen: We worked together in a Google sheet (like an Excel file that we could all access). Looking back, I'm not sure if that was the best idea, because if everybody can edit it, then sometimes it becomes a bit chaotic. There were stupid things like we didn’t spell the country in the same way or we used abbreviations when we shouldn’t have or we used commas instead of full stops. It took a lot of time in order to make the sheet with the data, of which there was plenty, ready for analysis. If there would have been only one person filling it in, then there would have been more consistency. So that was definitely something that I would have made a more conscious decision on in the beginning. In the end, we just sent our raw data to our data analyst at De Correspondent and he helped us build macros in Excel to extract the data for the questions we wanted to answer.

Vlad Odobescu: As you said, De Correspondent was the main publishing platform. But you also published on the ICIR in Nigeria. Did you try to adapt the story for different platforms?

Maite Vermeulen: Adapting the story was the responsibility of Giacomo and Ajibola, because the idea was that the Journalism Fund paid for their research time and De Correspondent paid them per piece as well. But in order to make more money, because they're freelance and I'm a staff editor, they would be able to adjust the story for different audiences. Giacomo published in Internazionale, and also in a French medium. For Internazionale, he took a more Italian angle. Ajibola not so much. The story pretty much went as it is on ICIR, which I think is a little bit of a shame, because there were more interesting Nigerian angles to take, I think, particularly on the role of the Nigerian government. But it was up to him. I think he made a rational choice: how much time is it going to cost me to write a new story and how much money am I getting from the Nigerian media? (The answer to the latter question is: basically zero).

Vlad Odobescu: Did you do the editing?

Maite Vermeulen: We had an editor. I did most of the writing. I wrote all the first versions in Dutch and we would make a computer translation that Ajibola and Giacomo would add input to. Then I would rework that into a Dutch version and we sub-edited the Dutch version and when that was totally finished we would translate it into English.

Vlad Odobescu: Starting from this project, what would you recommend to other journalists who are trying to work cross-border?

Maite Vermeulen: What would I have done differently...I found the collaboration with Giacomo great, because we were on the same wave-length regarding the subject. Ajibola did not have the same understanding of the subject, so that made cooperation really difficult, in the sense that it wasn’t on a truly equal basis. So definitely looking back I would look for a journalist who was already more engaged with the topic of migration. And ideally we would come up with an actual group project. Of course, that's more difficult, because how do you find a group if you don't have an idea yet? But for example this guy, Daniel Howden, also runs a group for migration journalists in Europe and we have a WhatsApp group and from time to time we have meetings and we discuss topics around migration and then different people say: “I would be interested in working on this topic”, “I would be interested too”. So we really start from thinking about the idea together. This turned out to be more: “This is my idea and they help.” At times, I found that a bit uncomfortable, because they’re great journalists and they wanted to work on an equal basis. I didn’t want to be telling Ajibola what to do.

I guess it was OK because I was also connected to the main publication platform, so they saw me as the group leader. But I think the more equal the cooperation is, the better. What I did find good in the project was that everybody had a clearly defined role, but not only a role, something he or she adds, something he or she is really good at. So it’s clear what the added value of each person is. I think that’s also something if you want to apply for funds, that funders want to hear: why is this group of people going to do this particularly well?

Something that worked well was that we had weekly or biweekly meetings, so not only checking in when something was up or when something went wrong. Sometimes we didn’t have a lot to talk about, but that’s fine. Sometimes we ended up being able to help each other, even when we didn’t have big questions.

For journalists who work for bigger established media: I would have really liked—and I think De Correspondent will do that in the future—to have a project manager. There was a lot of bureaucracy surrounding the funding, for example. There is also the matter of planning your project with three people and three different media outlets. I did that and it was fine, but that took a lot of time, which could have gone into journalism. It’s awkward when one of you misses a deadline and you’re equal partners. It would be nice if somebody else could check up on them. Especially if you’re going to work with more than three people, which some of my colleagues do. Two of my colleagues worked on a project about surveillance in Europe with 14 journalists from different European countries. They had a project manager and they couldn’t have done that without him. And I think grant-givers understand that, it's something you can ask for funding for.

Then there’s the language issue: it’s something that you really need to consider carefully when you start. Though I’m relatively fluent in English, it’s not my native language, so I’m not going to write the most amazing piece in English, compared to Dutch. My level of English was better than that of my colleague’s though, which made the editing process a lot harder and added to this being more “my piece” and them giving input rather than it being our collective work.


“Eurocrimes: Exploring Criminal Worlds on the Continent” (2016)
By Michael Bird, Vlad Odobescu, Cecilia Ferrara, Feliciano Tisera, Sigute Limontaite, Paulius Ramanauskas, Cosmin Pojoranu, Andrei Mocanca, Sorina Vasilescu

What is this project / story about?

Our team took a closer look at the migration of criminality across Europe, gathering statistics on prisoner numbers from national institutions in 25 European countries and creating infographics that would help the public better understand the scale of criminality and its relationship to migration. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

The project is mainly concerned with data. However, we accompanied the information with several stories of people who were caught in this phenomenon (human trafficking victims, former thieves, drug addicts), and we discussed with experts and authorities about causes and possible solutions.

What makes it a cross-border story?

The project focused on questions which are inherently trans-national: Which are the countries that have become hubs for criminal activities? What routes do the criminals follow? What is specific to one country or another when it comes to crimes?

How is the information organized?

We created a landing page with sections on the main findings: that included an interactive infographic through which users could find out about foreign nationals in a specific EU country, a comparison between Romanians imprisoned in their own country and those imprisoned in other EU countries, a list of the major crimes committed outside Romanian borders, and the average amount of money spent per day on a European prisoner. On the same page we linked a series of features about victims of human trafficking and drug addiction, interviews with begging gangs, thieves, career criminals, police officers, criminologists, charity workers and mafia experts, who helped us wrestle with the problems and the solutions. We focused on Romania because the original aim of the project was to understand why there are so many Romanians imprisoned throughout Europe—this turned into a much larger, more complex investigation as we kept on gathering more and more data from different countries.


“Europe spends billions stopping migration. Good luck figuring out where the money actually goes” (2019) Authors: Maite Vermeulen, Ajibola Amzat and Giacomo Zandonini

What is this project / story about?

In the last few years, the European Union has spent billions of euros on development, stability and efforts to reduce migration in 26 African countries. We tracked the opaque processes through which the money is spent. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

There are no characters in the typical journalistic manner. The main actors are funds, NGOs, EU foundations and agencies, and Nigerian institutions dealing with the European money for migration policies in African countries.

What makes it a cross-border story?

The story involves political actors on two continents, linked by massive expenditures targeted at reducing migration from Africa to EU countries.

How is the information organized?

It’s a data project. Interactive infographics show the complicated web of opaque funding mechanisms and institutions operating in the EU and on a national level. What I find fascinating about this project is that infographics are not meant to reveal and explain; instead, they are testament to how complicated the whole thing is.


  • Such stories usually imply very complex structures, so the team needs to be extra-careful to keep the story exciting for the audience.
  • Clear roles inside the team are crucial. A project manager (or a member of the team acting as one) would be needed to keep the story on track.

e. Thematic stories

Here we are veering away from investigative journalism and towards cultural/anthropological/sociological narrative features. A theme story is usually less driven by a particular event, and more by a problem or a phenomenon which can be observed in various countries. For instance, a team of international journalists can explore the subject of depopulation or river regulation in four European countries. A recent example is the multimedia feature “Witch Hunt” by Reporters in the Field alumni, which investigated women’s rights through the theme of witch hunts, past and present.

“Witch Hunt”
Report by Ada Petriczko, reporter and team leader

I came up with the idea of “Witch Hunt” while working in South Asia in the spring of 2018. I met many local women who practiced natural medicine and shamanism and I started to wonder whether such women still lived in Europe. After all, the Old Continent had a long history of quelling what it labelled “magic”. Have witches survived there, despite the impact of the Enlightenment in the West and Communism in the East, despite the violent witch hunts?

I envisioned a multimedia, cross-border story in which a group of reporters and film-makers would travel through Europe and “witch hunt.” Historically, a witch hunt was synonymous with annihilation and conquest, but the aim of our "hunt" was the opposite. We wanted to bring back into the public's eye the women who were ridiculed, discriminated against and forgotten for practising their craft. We sought the granddaughters of the witches that Europe was never able to burn.

I contacted two women reporters whose work I admired—Tonina Alomar from Spain and Ana Maria Luca from Romania (who turned out to be a granddaughter of a witch herself.) We were colleagues from News Mavens, the first European newsroom created entirely by women, where I used to work as an editor. I also invited the film-maker Adam Barwiński from Poland, who specializes in documentary films. As a team, we applied for a Reporters in the Field Grant from the Robert Bosch Foundation and received it in June 2018.

During a grant workshop in Berlin, we were encouraged to voice our core question: “What does it mean to be a witch in 21st century Europe?”. We stuck with it for the following one and a half years and it turned out to be capacious enough to accommodate various shifts in our approach to the topic. We chose our focus countries (Romania, Spain and Poland) and established clear roles for the team members. Each reporter would “witch hunt”, acting as a writer, researcher and translator in her own country. The film-maker was the only person who would travel to all three locations, capturing the protagonists on film. Midway through the process of reporting, Tonina dropped out of the project, due to an excessive workload in her daily job. Ana Maria took over the bulk of her tasks. As the team leader, I handled the administrative work, on top of reporting.

The story development process was full of twists, turns and some dead ends. The biggest innovation was triggered by Adam, who early on suggested that we should not treat the word “witch” too literally. While researching, we learned that this term actually had little to do with magic. It was popularized by Early Modern witch hunters to persecute people who lived on the fringes of society—healers, accoucheurs, herbalists, the so-called “heretics”, but also single and widowed women. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 people were burned at the stake across Europe—80% of them women. Witch hunts were in fact women hunts.

As we wrote in our story, “for centuries, these women were accused of dealing with the devil and burned. But what if, as Mona Chollet put it, the ‘devil’ was just a code word for independence? Were they executed for what today we call feminism?” In order to underline this theme, we decided that our protagonists would not only include the practitioners of natural medicine and shamanism, but also feminist activists, artists, psychologists, actresses and other women who refuse to listen when they are told to be quiet. Thanks to this shift, “Witch Hunt” became a more multifaceted story than it would have been had we just focused on the so-called “magic.”

In each of the three countries, we covered two sub-stories. We wanted them to contrast with each other, hence in each of the pairs, one story touched more on the themes of rebellion and feminism, while the other focused on magic. For example, in Poland the story of the so-called “whisperers” (elderly women who heal through the combination of charms and Orthodox prayers) was juxtaposed with the story of Cecylia Malik, an ecofeminist artist protesting against the government’s environmental policies. In Romania, our first protagonist was Maria Campina, the notorious Roma “Queen of White Magic”, while the second one was Mihaela Dragan, a playwright and actress whose work deals with racism against Roma women. Finally, in Spain, we featured Leticia Cayota, a humanist psychologist who stages indigenous women’s rituals, but we also followed a group of feminist activists to Zugarramurdi, the site of the biggest witch trial in history.

From the beginning, we wanted to publish “Witch Hunt” in several countries and media outlets. We started releasing it in early spring 2020. For our international publisher, we picked Are We Europe, which was a perfect match since cross-border, multimedia stories with a special focus on Europe are their trademark. As we had a lot of material, the editors decided to publish it in four parts: two from Poland, one from Spain and one from Romania. In Poland, we chose Przekrój, a quirky yet mainstream cultural magazine, established in 1945. Our Romanian publisher will be Scena 9 magazine.

We believe that the project is far from complete. The theme of witch hunts is so rich that we would like to continue working on it, also outside of Europe.


“Empty Europe” (2019)
By Lara Bullens, Safouane Abdessalem, Veronica Di Benedetto Montaccini, Francesca Candioli, Ana Valiente, Álvaro García Ruiz (Reporters in the Field alumni)

What is this project / story about?

“Empty Europe” is a cross-border multimedia story about the lives of young people in the most depopulated regions of France, Spain and Italy. Its starting point was a daunting statistic— according to the United Nations, by 2050 over two thirds of humanity is predicted to live in cities. A team of six journalists set out to report on the lives of young people who have chosen a life counter to this prognosis. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

Among the main characters are: Mathieu Couturier, who has taken over his father’s farm in Lussat, France; Sofi, a hairdresser from Zamora, Spain; and Angela Pisani, who runs a ceramic workshop in Irsina, Italy.

What makes it a cross-border story?

It is a cross-border story in all aspects—both the journalists and their subjects represent the three above-mentioned countries.

How is the information organized?

The project has a dedicated landing page, divided into three sections, one for each country. The text is accompanied by photos and videos, which not only add visual information (e.g. portraits, video interviews), but also serve as an atmospheric background (e.g. long shots of empty spaces).


“Deep Breath” (2017)
By Chiara, Ewa Dziardziel, Benjamin Filarski, Maria de la Guardia, Mahmoud Khattab, Vishan Manve, Brian Otieno, Mauricio Palos, Honorata Zapaśnik

What is this project / story about?

“Deep Breath” is an interactive, cross-border report on the effects of air pollution. Spanning five continents and multiple characters, this story is a kaleidoscopic illustration of the fact that today over 90% of people live in cities with polluted air. The project is available here. A making-of of this project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

The report showcases both the negative consequences of, and possible solutions to air pollution, hence the long list of characters include children and pensioners alongside researchers and anti-smog activists.

What makes it a cross-border story?

The project investigates life in 11 cities across five continents struggling with polluted air, such as Nairobi, Chengdu, Cairo and Kathmandu.

How is the information organized?

In the emblematic style of Outride.rs (a non-profit newsroom covering global issues that have a local impact), the information is organized into a vertically-running slider, shuffling short pieces of text (reports), data (mostly statistical), photos and videos. The visual and the audio parts do not serve as illustrations to the text, but are full-fledged elements of the narration. The story begins with the presentation of the problem and finishes with possible solutions, some of them already implemented.


“Clean Water” (2018)
By Rafał Hetman

What is this project / story about?

In 1995, Ismail Seralgedin, the former Vice President of the World Bank, predicted: “If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water.” “Clean Water” is a cross-border thematic story that shines a spotlight on the problem of the increasing shortage of freshwater on Earth. It explores various conflicts over water and highlights how water shortages aggravate existing conflicts, e.g. between Israel and Palestine or India and Pakistan. One of its focal points is South Sudan, the youngest country on the planet, where water is a rare luxury. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

Together with the visuals, the story uses quotes from inhabitants in order to explore the personal side of pollution in these cities.

What makes it a cross-border story?

The intro warns that water sources are diminishing in many parts of the world. These shortages appear not only in underdeveloped regions of the world, but they also concern modern metropolises: London, Barcelona or Miami.

How is the information organized?

It is a more minimalist story than the above mentioned “Deep Breath”, as it is illustrated only by graphics imitating paintings. The information is organized in interactive sliders.


“Witch Hunt” (2020)
By Ada Petriczko, Adam Barwiński, and Ana-Maria Luca

What is this project / story about?

“Witch Hunt” is a cross-border, multimedia story focusing on the question: “What does it mean to be a witch in 21st century Europe?” Each story proposes a different answer to this question. The witch can be a non-conforming woman who rebels, questions patriarchal dogmas, draws on her own wisdom and fights for her rights. The project also explores the link between the birth of capitalism and historical witch hunts. The project is available here.

Who are the main characters, if any?

The heroines include urban fortune-tellers (Maria Campina, Romania) and rural healers (“The whisperers” from Poland), but also artists (Cecylia Malik, Poland), playwrights (Mihaela Dragan, Romania) and psychologists (Leticia Cayota, Spain), among many others. The authors interview European and American experts who study witch hunts, including the acclaimed writer Silvia Federicci.

What makes it a cross-border story?

It was reported by an international team of journalists and filmmakers. On top of that, the stories span three countries—Romania, Spain and Poland.

How is the information organized?

The project includes stories written in the style of narrative reportage, as well as photographs, audio recordings and short video clips. Its structure is discussed in-depth below. It was divided into four stories: two from Poland, one from Romania and one from Spain.


https://przekroj.pl/en/society/i-just-pray-ada-petriczko https://przekroj.pl/en/society/there-were-no-witches-only-women-ana-maria-luca https://przekroj.pl/en/society/the-age-of-the-roma-witch-ana-maria-luca https://przekroj.pl/en/society/the-queen-of-backyard-games-ada-petriczko

Are We Europe

https://www.areweeurope.com/stories/witch-hunt-rebellious-women-then-and-now https://www.areweeurope.com/stories/queen-backyard-games-ada-petriczko https://www.areweeurope.com/stories/whisperers-ada-petriczko https://www.areweeurope.com/stories/witch-hunt-hidden-history-spain-ana-maria-luca https://www.areweeurope.com/stories/romania-witchcraft-ana-maria-luca


  • This category is somewhere between journalism and anthropological/sociological research.
  • The use of tools is freer than in other cases: journalists can explore very creative ways to illustrate the topic.

About The Authors

Vlad Odobescu

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Anne Sofie Hoffmann Schrøder

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Ada Petriczko

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Vedrana Simicevic

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