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6Cross Border Journalism

Cross Border Investigations and Collaborations for Journalists

When tackling the subject of cross border investigations and collaborations, one investigative journalist comes to mind, Rob Cribb. Rob Cribb is a Canadian investigative journalist working with the Toronto Star and is driven by his passion, determination, patience and curiosity (Ryerson School of Journalism 2014). His specialty is in national and international investigations. Cribb’s investigative reports include stories on organized crime, airline safety, international child abuse, medical errors, government corruption, fraud and serious food safety risks among other hot stories (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 2014). A good example of how Cribb has managed to use this approach is when the Toronto Star and El Nuevo Herald collaborated to carry out an investigation where they found out that Canadians were travelling to Cuba in astonishing numbers to exploit, sexually, young Cubans who are trapped in the underground sex tourism industry in the country (Schick, 2013). With Cuban authorities having denied the problem and Canada’s sloppy oversight, cross border investigations and collaborations between the Toronto Star through Cribb and El Nuevo Herald was fundamental in bringing to light the problem (Schick, 2013). According to Cribb, whether it is a TV station, newspaper or radio or whatever platform, finding the right person to collaborate with in investigative journalism is fundamental.

While it is important for journalists to collaborate across borders, Cribb believes that the ancient codified competitive habits in journalists are still hard to break (Schick, 2013). It thus requires a leap of faith amongst journalists involved, as was the case with Cribb and El Nuevo Herald in the above mentioned example. According to Cribb, while exclusivity in investigative journalism is still important for building brand, limitations do exist in shutting down the other journalist at all cost (Schick, 2013). These limitations are becoming more apparent to a majority of journalists today. For most stories requiring investigations over vast geographical complexities, language differences as well as intricate indigenous legal questions, the normal do it yourself approach can largely undermine both the scope and quality of the story and its interest to the public. The truth of the matter is, it is difficult to do such stories individually a quickly and comprehensively as required and in a manner that does the story justice (Schick, 2013). In the above named example, the collaboration between The Toronto Star, specifically Rob Cribb and El Nuevo Herald brought remarkable insights to the understanding of the practical knowledge that smoothed a complex international reporting journey. It also enabled Cribb and the other journalists in the two media houses to bring forth hard evidence that would otherwise been missing had Cribb decided to investigate the story himself (Schick, 2013).

Diana Swain is another investigative journalist who believes on the important role that cross-border investigations and collaborations among journalists plays in the 21st century investigative reporting (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 2014). Mrs. Swain is a leading investigative journalist in Canada for CBC News and can be frequently seen on CBC’s investigative program the Fifth Estate. According to the recently concluded International Conference on Investigative Journalism: Holding Power to Account: Investigative Journalism, Democracy and Human Rights event help at the University of Winnipeg, Swain and Cribb talked about the importance of journalistic collaborations across borders (Sedletska, 2014). Swain put it clearly that cross border collaborations and investigations among journalists is more like a partnership and finding the right partner is the most important thing. According to Swain, such partnerships have similar characteristics of a marriage partnership and as such require trust. Knowing the right person who you will partner with and being ready to open and share is the most difficult part in cross border collaborations and investigations for most investigative journalists. Just as Cribb maintains that exclusivity is still important in journalism, Swain agrees that it is hard for journalists to rise above their ego and share their stories with another journalist from different media house (Sedletska, 2014). However, Swain stresses that if an investigative journalist finds the right individual to collaborate with in a story then the result are always worth it in the end.

Mexico Uncovered, a program produced by Round Earth Media has made proper use of the cross border collaborations and investigations (Mexico Uncovered, 2013). Budding investigative journalists Isabella Cota and Annie Murphy partnered to uncover a story in rural Mexico where classrooms in schools were experiencing an influx of children born in the United States (Mexico Uncovered, 2013). What their story brought out was that for the first time in almost 40 years, the number of Mexicans returning home was equaling that going into the U.S. and the ways in which communities in Mexico were deal with these changes (Mexico Uncovered, 2013). These collaborations have enabled Mexican journalists tell powerful and untold stories to be broadcast in top-tier media thus enabling these stories reach huge audiences in Mexico and the U.S.

Cross border investigations and collaborations in journalism is a journalistic approach that offers a new model for investigative reporting (Wilson, 2014). From the few documented cases and for the time it has been around, it would be right to say that it promises to make a big difference in landing a high profile story. For journalists who would be limited to just one country, this approach provides them that global platform to cast their net (Wilson, 2014). Data and information that would otherwise be difficult to get in a particular country is easily made available to others with the approach proving to be a vital strategy where there are dwindling resources. Any successful co-production of a cross border investigative story is the product of absolute trust between journalists (Wilson, 2014). If any of the opinions of the discussed journalists is anything to go by, then finding honor among thieves is not always an easy task but it can be found if journalists are willing to collaborate.


Ryerson School of Journalism (2014). About Robert Cribb. Retrieved from

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (2014). Holding the Power to Account.

Schick, T. (2013, March 4). International collaboration enhances investigation into Canadians’ role in Cuba’s child sex market. Retrieved from news/2013/04/03/international-collaboration-enhances-investigation/

Sedletska, N (2014, June 13). Collaboration in Investigative Journalism: It’s like a Marriage. Retrieved from marriage/

Mexico Uncovered (2013). Untold Stories From The Mexico You Don’t Know. Retrieved from

Wilson, T (2014, June 27). Cross-border investigations. Retrieved from