BIRN Summer School Day 4: Podcasts and Cross-Border Journalism

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On the fourth day of BIRN’s Summer School of Investigative Reporting, participants learned about investigative podcasts and cross-border journalism.

Photo: BIRN

On Thursday, sessions on investigative podcasts started the fourth day of the BIRN’s Summer School of Investigative Reporting in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Michael Montgomery, a senior reporter and producer for Reveal, talked about the fundamentals of investigative podcasts. Podcasts are getting more popular every year, with more than half lasting over 30 minutes.

Podcasts are visually powerful forms of audio that tell big, sometimes emotionally complex stories and offer clarity in chaos. “For many podcasts, the central framing device is a question,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery talked about the old dramatic principle, the three-act story structure that divides a story into setup, confrontation and resolution.

“The work we do with podcasts is very emotional. It’s very important to master the three-act story structure if you want to do investigative podcasts,” he advised.

Taja Topolovec, Co-Founder and CEO of, said that a podcast is much more intimate than just reading an article. “It’s like someone talking directly into your ear. People are waiting for the next episode to come out,” Topolovec said.

“For us, podcasting was a way to connect more with an international audience, to get more international context. In the last few years, podcasting has become a very important product,” the Slovenian podcaster said.

Sandrine Rigaud, editor of Forbidden Stories, spoke about the four essential characteristics of cross-border journalism. Journalists from different countries decide on an idea of mutual interest, gather and share material, and then publish the story for their audience.

“The challenges include cultural differences, different practices and standards, the timing of publication, and allocation of time resources,” Rigaud told the participants.

“Sharing is one of the golden rules of collaboration. We share findings, interview notes, documents, and plans so we do not duplicate. We don’t have to share the identity of confidential sources, but we share quotes, off-the-record information,” the French journalist said.

The Summer School continues on Friday with investigating migration and human rights abuses and an introduction to data journalism.