The Panama Papers data leak and media collaboration in 2016 were unprecedented in scale, and drew unprecedented news focus to global tax abuse. Thomas Owen and Taylor Annabell, of Auckland University of Technology, studied the coverage of Panama Papers in New Zealand media, analyzing thosands of articles from 23 news outlets.
The data leaks functioned a ‘focusing’ moment enabling social transformation. It was however limited by short-term attention and enduring nation-centrism, the researchers write.
The authors describe how the events provided a ‘news peg’ upon which to ‘hang’ reporting of the wider issues of tax havens. The coverage focused on New Zealand foreign trusts, leading to a government-commissioned inquiry and policy change.
For Panama Papers and other tax-related news articles, a dominant focus on tax havens, evasion, and avoidance only lasted during the three-month period of heightened coverage from April to June.
After the events, there was little coverage and no evidence of ongoing influence upon tax discourse in general. The globally interconnected nature of the Panama Papers was at times brought forward and at other times obfuscated behind nation-centric news tendencies.
The article “The Panama Papers in New Zealand media” was published in Discourse, Context & Media and is available on the publisher’s website (abstract free).
Picture: Square Peg by Chris Elt, license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0