Credit: Juliana Kozoski on Unsplash

Today marks World News Day (WND) which gives us a chance to recognise the outstanding journalism that we have seen this year.

In its own words, WND "aims to raise awareness of the critical role that journalists play in providing credible and reliable news, to help people make sense of — and improve — the rapidly changing world around them."

In 2020, the world has, indeed, rapidly changed. It has been one of the most eventful years in living memory. The importance of journalism became all the more clear as the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement shook the world. And still, there is so much left to cover, from the climate emergency to local democracy.

For WND, Journalism.co.uk compiled some outstanding examples of journalism that we have seen this year.

Investigative and collaborative journalism

In what it described as "an investigation of historic scale", earlier this month BuzzFeed News and The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published the FinCEN files.

The project, which involves a team of more than 400 reporters in 88 countries assembled by ICIJ, is based on more than 2,100 leaked government documents known as 'suspicious activity reports' (or SARs) obtained by BuzzFeed News.

These documents are so sensitive that prior to this reporting, only a handful was ever publicly identified. ICIJ's global team of journalists and data specialists spent a year analysing the reports and extracting data about more than $2 trillion worth of transactions. The collaborative investigation traces how these suspicious funds flow into dozens of countries.

"These files expose a vast and powerful network of financial corruption reaching every corner of the world, every industry, and countless governments — and they show that US authorities are aware of it but don’t do what’s necessary to stop it," says Mark Schoofs, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News in a press release.

"The FinCEN Files is a detailed archive of the unseen, sinister forces that shape our global economy, our history, and our futures."

If trawling through the long articles is not your cup of tea, you can instead check out the accompanying podcast produced in partnership with Pineapple Street Studios: Suspicious Activity: Inside the FinCEN Files. It is a five-part series and airs a new episode weekly.

Data journalism on coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has been dominated by numbers. Death tolls, transmission rates, the R number. All this can be not just confusing but also overwhelming.

It is easy to get carried away with graphs with large peaks and "exponential" rises. But without context, this can cause unnecessary alarm.

Sky News economics editor Ed Conway has posted useful video explainers throughout the pandemic to break down numbers and provide context and analysis based on data from other countries and multiple sources.

It offers a rounded picture of how likely a second covid-19 peak is. Check out from 3:00 below where he isolates the data by place of death. He examines how above-average numbers of people are dying at home, compared to falling figures in care homes and hospitals.

"It's hard to think of another story in recent times where the data - how it's presented and interpreted - has been so important," Conway told Journalism.co.uk.

"Just take something that sounds pretty innocuous - the difference between cases of the disease doubling every seven days and every ten days. It doesn't sound like much but it is the difference between what we faced in spring and something like what Germans have gone through.

"Actually a lot of the data behind covid-19 are quite simple and showing them on our screens, trusting the viewer with them, has been something we've tried to do as much as possible during the pandemic."

Covering the impacts of the Black Lives Matter movement

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police in May sent shockwaves around the world. The racial justice protests and the Black Lives Matter movement became worldwide events and discussions around racial abuse became, and remain, important.

This is why a documentary published this month sparked such a heated debate. BBC Three journalist Reha Kansara looked at the implications of one all-too-frequent insult that we hear in the UK: "go back to where you came from".

For those born here, that abuse carries a sense of exclusion, and denial of citizenship and identity. Kansara spoke to victims as well as those who are standing up against the abuse, to delve deeper into what British identity means today.

"The world has not changed lots [in the last six months] in regards to racism in this country," Kansara told Journalism.co.uk. "What has changed is that people are more open to discussing it."

Audiences who have faced this kind of behaviour can find strength and solidarity in the documentary.

"It's still an issue that needs to be talked about."

Solutions journalism on climate emergency

The climate emergency is one topic that has remained in focus this year. But it tends to heap negativity on readers, making them feel frustrated, hopeless and even anxious about global warming.

In response, print and digital magazine Are We Europe published The Climate Issue this month. The full version is available to subscribers, and there are a handful of stories on the website too, like helping consumers make greener energy choices.

But is there anything more fitting than Brazilian journalist Fernanda Buriola's piece on eco-anxiety? Here, she talks about the often-forgotten part of the climate emergency discussion: our mental health. Not only does she explore how global warming can create legitimate feelings of anxiety within us, but what can be done to ease these concerns.

In an event held last week by the Solutions Journalism Network, editor-in-chief Kyrill Hartog said the publication has taken this new solutions-focused approach to help readers overcome such negative feelings.

"It's a unique way of covering the climate crisis," he says. "They're very human, they're about personal experiences of people in Europe and how they're either frightened by climate change or trying to make a difference."

Mobile journalism during lockdown

When the pandemic first broke, Italy was one of the worst affected countries and quickly went into lockdown.

One reporter still taking to the streets with his smartphone, selfie stick and a few other gadgets was Nico Piro, mobile journalism trainer and special correspondent at Italy’s RAI television.

His coverage during lockdown ranged from dealing with sign language to support networks for struggling families.

"As a journalist, I have always tried to give voices to the voiceless," says Piro who previously reported on the war in Afghanistan. "So when the pandemic began in Italy, I found myself in a similar situation in my own country.

When he was told to stay at home, his thoughts went to those without a home and that became the focus of his reporting.

"Not having a home to me was a wider metaphor of that forgotten part of society which was suffering the most - so I went to homeless shelters, food banks, free clinics in the poorest part of the country."

Local coverage on councils

While so much is happening on a national and global level, we also cannot overlook the importance of reporting on local democracy.

The Bureau Local has published several investigations exposing questionable investments in solar energy by local authorities or the shocking state of homelessness in this country. Thanks to a collaboration between journalists and citizens, stories like this one about the UK Treasury banning billion-pound property investments could see the light of the day.

Photojournalism during the London anti-racism protests

Remember this photo which hit the front pages of several British national newspapers? It was a fraught time for the UK. The anti-racism demonstrations prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement were mostly peaceful, but they turned into violent scuffles with counter-protesters on 13 June 2020.

There on the scene to capture this memorable moment was Reuters photographer Dylan Martinez. The photo carries a sense of solidarity amid the hostility of the day. Here, protester Patrick Hutchinson 'fireman lifts' a suspected far-right counter-protester, who was injured in the chaos, to safety.

"The crowd parted right in front of me," Martinez recalled, speaking to Reuters. "I was in the right place at right time, and incredibly lucky from that point of view. He came towards me walking briskly."

REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Patrick Hutchinson, a protester, carries a suspected far-right counter-protester who was injured, to safety, near Waterloo station during a Black Lives Matter protest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, in London, Britain, June 13, 2020.

What have we missed? Tweet us your favourite pieces of journalism of 2020 @journalismnews with #Journalismmatters

This piece was updated on 30 September 2020 by Jacob Granger to include mention of Reuters

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