Last year, the release of the Panama Papers caused a huge sensation across the globe, exposing a hidden world of wealth held offshore. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists brought together hundreds of reporters from around the world to examine the millions of documents that were leaked to two reporters at the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. For their work, the I.C.I.J. won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting.
The New York Times was not part of that team. Like many reporters here, I spent a lot of time scrambling to make sense of what the I.C.I.J. had uncovered, writing follow-on stories. Breathing fumes.
This year, with the publication of the Paradise Papers — an extensive leak of documents primarily from a Bermudan law firm — we were on the inside. Working under Rebecca Corbett, The Times’s investigations editor, Mike McIntire, Jesse Drucker, Scott Shane and I joined up with close to 400 reporters around the world, spending much of this year sifting through some of the more than 13 million files.
It was exciting. But it was also unnerving.
Early on, just as the first documents were becoming searchable through the I.C.I.J.’s sophisticated in-house system, it became apparent just how much we would have to relearn journalistic habits acquired over decades of reporting.
We would have to learn how to share.
By late February, a team of journalists from The New York Times, The Guardian, the BBC, the I.C.I.J. and other organizations were scouring documents, looking for any connections to the new Trump cabinet, one of several reporting initiatives. But the documents from Appleby — a white-shoe law firm — often led us to water but didn’t let us drink. Tidbits of evidence in the documents frequently had to be supplemented by a lot of outside reporting, some of it building on our own proprietary reporting.