Editor’s Note: Our sister publication Nieman Reports is out with its spring issue, which spotlights the efforts of reporters trying to uncover corruption. We’re highlighting a few entries that connect with subjects we follow in the Lab, but go read the whole issue. In this piece, Nils Mulvad, an editor at Kaas & Mulvad, talks about collaboration and networked reporting on farm subsidies in the EU.
Farm subsidies in Europe are a natural topic for journalists. Investigative reporters know what comes from following the money. Since close to half of the European Union’s total budget goes toward subsidizing agriculture, trying to obtain information about these payments seemed like a good direction to head in — holding the potential that we’d find important stories waiting to be told.
When Farmsubsidy.org was formed in 2005, its goal was to get access to information on who gets what in farm subsidies from the E.U. and why. Already, in Denmark, I had managed to get this data, and in the United Kingdom, Jack Thurston had won some legal battles that provided him with access to these figures. As the two of us corresponded about our efforts, we decided to take this project to the larger stage of the entire E.U. Danish journalist Brigitte Alfter had already requested this E.U. data in 2004 so she joined forces with Jack and me in co-founding Farmsubsidy.org.
Our investigative network included people from various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) along with journalists. After we started to file legal challenges to get access to this data in the Netherlands, Poland, France and Germany, the E.U. Commission and the European Council decided that all member states would be required to publish on their websites information about who receives farm subsidies and how much they receive.