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The Panama Papers investigation and the scope and boundaries of its networked publics: Cross-border journalistic collaboration driving transnationally networked public spheres

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Although journalism has long been considered a profession of lone wolves, its present and future is shaped by collaborative practices of various kinds. The investigation of the Panama Papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and its more than 100 media partners worldwide is an impressive example of collaborative journalism across media, language and national borders. This article focuses on the impact of such cross-border journalism projects on the transnationalization of public communication in digital media environments. It addresses the question of what kind of ‘networked public sphere’ was created by the revelations of the Panama Papers, exemplified by the communication structures that evolved on the networking platform Twitter. Digital media such as Twitter have the potential to constitute more grounded public spheres than traditional media and to foster interconnections between different publics across national and language barriers. We trace whether or not the transnational collaborative Panama Papers investigation paved the way for a networked public sphere characterized by (1) transnational attention to the issue and (2) transnational interconnections through Twitter users interacting across country and language boundaries and thereby contributing to global public communication.

Keywords: Panama Papers; collaborative journalism; digital media; journalism networks; networked publics; public spheres; transnationalization

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin and Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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