Bringing the largest investigative journalism project in history to the public


Residents read the morning papers reporting a statement issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta after the Pandora Papers revealed he was among more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of secret financial accounts.

Reuben Fischer-Baum, NF ’22, on his “slice” of the Pandora Papers

I’m a graphics editor at The Washington Post, which means I lead a team that creates visuals like maps and data visualizations, as well as custom interactive web pages. In 2021, my beat was business and technology, so I was looped through the Pandora Papers – a cache of nearly 12 million leaked records from 14 different offshore service providers – to find opportunities where graphics might help elucidate the investigation.

The Pandora Papers were a challenge to parse due to the breadth of information. Panama Papers, by comparison, came from a single vendor and were more easily indexed. This meant that it was difficult to address some of the summary questions that originally interested us, such as: how many properties in Manhattan are held in these types of offshore trusts? Each entity in the documents had to be reported individually. We ended up taking a few visual approaches. Our most prominent graphic lets readers scroll through an animated explanation of what trusts are, how they work, and what secrecy the Pandora Papers unlocked. This clarified some of the jargon essential to understanding this type of financial investigation, but which can often leave readers indifferent.

A few other leads have been successful: We were able to identify and map luxury properties held in shell companies controlled by King Abdullah II of Jordan. We counted works of art stolen from Cambodia and hidden behind trusts, making their way to museums around the world. And we’ve created pop-up graphics so readers can understand the size and scope of the leak itself.

Major investigations like the Pandora Papers are a group effort, and in the end about 60 Washington Post reporters worked alone on this project. I myself had to pass the chart coverage when my Nieman fellowship started. Our work was only part of the storytelling, but it was part of a rich whole that elevated these stories for our readers.

Most Popular Nieman Reports Articles


Comments are closed.