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Wikileaks Targets the Local News Frontier 57

eldavojohn writes "Wikileaks has been pretty successful on a global scale — from ACTA documents to East Anglian e-mails, it is the definitive place to find suppressed documents. But some are saying that now Wikileaks should begin focusing on a local level. From the article: 'The organization has applied for a $532,000 two-year grant from the Knight Foundation to expand the use of its secure, anonymous submission system by local newspapers. The foundation's News Challenge will give as much as $5 million this year to projects that use digital technology to transform community news. WikiLeaks proposes using the grant to encourage local newspapers to include a link to WikiLeaks' secure, anonymous servers so that readers can submit documents on local issues or scandals. The newspapers would have first crack at the material, and after a period of time — perhaps two weeks, [German Wikileaks spokesman Daniel] Schmitt said — the documents would be made public on the main WikiLeaks page.' Anyone reading this who works for a community news source and would like to host sensitive documents with no risk: here is your solution."
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Wikileaks Targets the Local News Frontier

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  • by Web Goddess ( 133348 ) * on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @06:49PM (#30531024)

    This may well be the key to resuscitating the integrity of journalistic reporting. With falling revenues comes an inability to pay reporters enough to research stories and verify the claims of sources. By helping reporters to more quickly arrive at the heart of the story, WikiLeaks Local just might turn around the industry!

    If it becomes big, it may also become an anonymous source of misinformation. Sad.

    • by Seor Jojoba ( 519752 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @07:10PM (#30531198) Homepage

      Exactly.

      Companies and orgs already barrage newspapers with press releases in hopes of favorable coverage. And they often rely on writers and editors to be so rushed that they will carry their advertisements without working for the benefit of their readers to verify facts and judge value of the content. Posting misinformation on wikileaks anonymously is just a logical and painfully rational extension of marketing.

      Look at it another way: even if real, honest, factual content is posted anonymously on wikileaks, with no sources available, all an implicated individual or institution has to do is deny the content is true in some vague way. And the flakier our news reporting gets, the harder it is to convince anyone that anything is true. In the end, we will just wander around cynical and unconvinced of anything, but also unwilling to act since no information seems actionable.

      We need old-fashioned journalists that report facts with verifiable sources. Not the cheap, Web 3.0, crowdsourced crap.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        We need old-fashioned journalists that report facts with verifiable sources. Not the cheap, Web 3.0, crowdsourced crap.

        How about we not get the cheap cut and paste crap which our old-fashioned news sources give us now.

      • by cez ( 539085 )
        Wikileaksipedia.org [wikileaksipedia.org]* Woot! ...Without the cabal???

        Pfffft...I'll take it either way! What could possibly go wrong?

        Seriously though, this is a step in the right direction for journalism and hopefully they do find out the right metric of verification / validation that doesn't turn into the NationalEnquirerWet.org


        *no that doesn't exist... yes I thought about registering it >.'

      • We need old-fashioned journalists that report facts with verifiable sources. Not the cheap, Web 3.0, crowdsourced crap.

        It has to be rewarding to do and have 'old-fashioned journalists'. Right now it isn't, prolly because of the 'ooh-shiny' mentality, and a 30 seconds attention timespan and the complexity of some topics is hindering.

        There is also no scale for depth, and another journalist can probably repost an executive summary of your investigation. Do you get kudos from the journalist community or editors? Probably no one cares, except if you uncover the story of the century (unlikely).

        Why should one then, as a journalist

    • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @07:45PM (#30531442)

      By helping reporters to more quickly arrive at the heart of the story, WikiLeaks Local just might turn around the industry!

      The problem isn't just paying people to research and verify stories. The problem is lso that people who are rich and don't like their dirty laundry being in the papers, tend to use their money to threaten papers with legal action. Small papers have to tremble and retreat. Big papers won't cave.

      Case and point would be the community newspaper which investigated condo conversion developers [dotnews.com]. The story had to be handed off to the Boston Globe, because the Globe could afford to tell the developers to Just Try And Sue Us.

      Clearly the story that Chris Lovett was uncovering "had legs," as we in the newspaper business used to say. The buy-rehab-sell-foreclose matrix called for a deep looksee that would by its nature be extensive, expensive, and full of extraordinary challenges for a local newspaper and its intrepid freelance reporter.

      Soon enough came a letter to Lovett from a lawyer from the law firm representing Scott warning him that his continuing reporting could result in serious legal consequences for him and the Reporter.

      No newspaper worth its ink falls back in the face of such an admonition against the quality of its news report, but reality does intervene in terms of staff size, the money needed to pursue a story with so many tentacles, the time needed to dot all the "I's", and the will and financial resources to deal with a defense of its actions and those of its trusted reporter in the legal arena should things come to that.

      So the Reporter's pursuit of the ending to this story was stalled.

      Enter an eminent investigative reporter named Walter V. Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize winner with The Boston Globe's Spotlight Team, which he directed in its world-shaking probe into the priest-abuse scandal in the archdiocese of Boston. I happened to be playing a round of golf with him and I mentioned the Lovett two-parter to him, saying that the Reporter and Chris had gone as far as we could with the story, given our resources.

      After some discussion, Robinson, retired but holding a continuing affiliation with the Globe, managed to get the story onto the paper's agenda and the result of that almost a year later was this past Sunday's lead-story Page One presentation of the Michael David Scott real estate story that ran across two full pages inside.

    • Not so much (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 )

      The problem with reporting, or more accurately the recent problem with it (there are other problems that it has always had, nothing is perfect) is that not enough time is spent on stories. There is this push to be immediate with everything, and thus fact checking falls by the wayside. The solution is simply to slow down and do proper investigations. Wikileaks won't help that as it is inherently unreliable. You know nothing about the people putting things on there, and thus you have no idea if it is true or

      • Just to be different, I think a newspaper could run a follow-up section which only runs reports on events that have already been reported.

        Example: Police officer shoots and kills an unarmed citizen. On administrative leave pending review.

        In our typical instant gratification society, most people would read that and go "gotcha! whats next?". Well, some of us want more. I want to read about that cop going to trial. Or that cop going to jail. Or, dunno, why the hell the DA chooses not to press charges. Right no

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by JackieBrown ( 987087 )

          Example: Police officer shoots and kills an unarmed citizen. On administrative leave pending review.

          In our typical instant gratification society, most people would read that and go "gotcha! whats next?". Well, some of us want more. I want to read about that cop going to trial. Or that cop going to jail. Or, dunno, why the hell the DA chooses not to press charges.

          Wow. Not one of your senarios allowed for the possibility that the officer acted properly (such as the citizen was armed.)

          Lack of follow up also occurs when an article is factually wrong and the news media doesn't want to own up to it. And, unless you have the money to do so, there is no way to force them to retract their statements (at least, not on page one where everyone previously read what a peice of shit you were.)

          You seem to have a distrust autority (which can be healthy) but your examples show too

        • Re:Not so much (Score:4, Insightful)

          by AnotherUsername ( 966110 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @01:14AM (#30533022)
          Or the cop being shown that he acted as he should have, because that 'unarmed citizen' wasn't actually unarmed, but had a weapon, and tried to kill the cop. However, that kind of stuff never makes the news, because people like yourself don't want to hear that. You want to hear that cops are bad. You want to hear that cops are out to get you. You don't want to hear that most of the time, cops act responsibly and do their jobs like they should. But that kind of stuff doesn't make the news, because that is not news to people. Have you ever considered the fact that the reason you sometimes hear about bad cops is because a bad cop is out of the ordinary? If it was as commonplace as many people around here seem to believe, you would never hear about it. It wouldn't be news anymore.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by digitalunity ( 19107 )

            I'm from Portland Oregon son. I'm sure there are good cops, but the bad ones make the news a lot.

            They've been talking about ending racial profiling for 20 years. A cursory glance at the county sherrifs inmate list(1267 people) seems to indicate they primarily arrest black and hispanic men. 48% of the time an officer pulls his gun, no arrest is made. Black men are on the receiving side of 29% of all use of force incidents, despite them making up just 6% of the city population.

            Then there's the case of Kendra

    • by Eil ( 82413 )

      If it becomes big, it may also become an anonymous source of misinformation. Sad.

      This is kinda what I thought too. However, most good journalists (and bloggers, as a collective) are proficient at determining the authenticity of a document, even if the content was formerly secret and the source is anonymous.

      Plus, most of the interesting content at wikileaks is way too verbose to easily fake. Someone would have to go through a lot of effort to craft a plausible but fake document of the sort that shows up on w

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I was thinking something else: if this becomes successful, the authorities certainly aren't going to like it and may try to "do something" about it.

        • by bronney ( 638318 )

          Doing something about it as in killing it is easy, and better for the mass because just like mininova.org, there'll always be TPB and others. What you should fear most is how the authorities will USE it to cloud the truth with the lies, polluting the real deals and messing up the searches. That's the worse.

      • by AnotherUsername ( 966110 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @01:51AM (#30533186)
        Bloggers are idiots. Lumping them in with journalists is like saying that a 5 year who draws a stick picture of his family is in the same group as a Renaissance artist. These are the same people saying that Obama wasn't born in the U.S. and that Bush caused 9/11. Give me a break.

        - Journalists study for years, and fight to get a good job with a reputable news agency.
        - Bloggers have a computer, and a website(oftentimes only a free account that took 10 minutes to start up).

        - Journalists spend their workday following up on leads, researching stories, and fact checking.
        - Bloggers do their 'research' by checking other blogs, and occasionally looking stuff up on wikipedia.

        - Journalists worry about libel and slander lawsuits constantly, because it could mean their job if they don't have the facts to back up their claims. If a tip turns out to be fraudulent, they could be in deep water, not only with their job, but with the courts.
        - If a blogger prints faulty information...I don't know. You never really hear about it, because they don't own up to it. A retraction, on a blog? Fat chance. Whatever the information, they'll just either pass blame, or they'll deny that it is wrong, or they will just delete it and pretend it never happened.

        I hate bloggers.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by VoiceOfDoom ( 875772 )

          Afraid I have to disagree with you there. In the UK at least, there are many bloggers whose output is verifiably more truthful, better-written and more apropos than that of most "professional" journalists. While the journalists are concentrating on how many women Tiger Woods has slept with, how breakfast is good for you and generally toeing the corporate party line, there are bloggers like this chap: Anton Vowl [blogspot.com] who writes coherent (if occasionally profane) and well-researched articles about important issues

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by steelfood ( 895457 )

          Bloggers have their place. They're not journalists in the traditional sense, but they're not useless either. Bloggers can spread disinformation if they are careless or malicious. But most often than not, they also have a reputation to uphold, and for those catered to a more educated crowd, they have to do just as much work as any traditional journalist to ensure their stories are accurate.

          Bloggers differ from journalists in that their articles are always opinionated. They offer a biased view of the world, w

        • by Eil ( 82413 )

          Bloggers are idiots. Lumping them in with journalists...

          Way to generalize there. As if no journalists are bloggers, and all bloggers are lazy attention whores.

          Besides, I said "bloggers as a collective".

        • by rdnetto ( 955205 )

          Bloggers are idiots. Lumping them in with journalists is like saying that a 5 year who draws a stick picture of his family is in the same group as a Renaissance artist

          Maybe so, but under copyright law both the 5 year old and the Renaissance artist get the same rights (assuming they're alive at the same time).

  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @06:53PM (#30531054) Homepage Journal

    The organization has applied for a $532,000 two-year grant from the Knight Foundation to expand the use of its secure, anonymous submission system by local newspapers.

    Wouldn't that money be better spent on a prissy talking car?

    • by Barryke ( 772876 )

      Strange how so few pointed this out. I blame xmas.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      Yeah, but that would mean finding some meat puppet to pretend to drive it. Where would you possibly find someone stupid enough to think they're actually making a difference on the missions--when they're essentially just serving as ballast and window dressing for the car that's really doing all the work? You would have to scour Venice Beach and every night club in New Jersey to find anyone that dumb.
  • A simple problem. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Wouldn't this defeat the purpose of anonymization? I mean, the newspaper columnist would be the logical target for who to pursue after something finds its way through this channel. I guess the newspaper itself would have to print the article on the subject anonymously, which doesn't help it much more than printing the leak directly under the same conditions, because they could still be traced (after all, they wrote the article on it) by their subjects. I guess the real benefit would be making sure it's etch

    • Re:A simple problem. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jahava ( 946858 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @07:37PM (#30531384)

      Wouldn't this defeat the purpose of anonymization? I mean, the newspaper columnist would be the logical target for who to pursue after something finds its way through this channel. I guess the newspaper itself would have to print the article on the subject anonymously, which doesn't help it much more than printing the leak directly under the same conditions, because they could still be traced (after all, they wrote the article on it) by their subjects. I guess the real benefit would be making sure it's etched in stone, post-apocalypse.

      It's a good question, and important that people understand it, so here goes. The scenario is as follows:

      1. A newspaper posts a generic link, something like "If you know of any local scandals, post them anonymously at https://www.wikileaks.com/submit/newspaper-name/ !"
      2. Someone with a local scandal does just that: they sign into Wikileaks at the aforementioned URL and post their information
      3. Wikileaks now has the local scandal, and it is associated with the newspaper that published the leak (via the newspaper-name component of the URL)
      4. Wikileaks contacts the newspaper, and gives just them access to the information for two weeks (the exclusivity is a reward for attracting the information via their link)
      5. Newspaper publishes the information, scandal, oh noes!
      6. Two weeks later, Wikileaks releases the information publicly on their site

      Now, specifically regarding your question ... it would not defeat the purpose of anonymous submission. The newspaper columnist knows nothing about the person who actually submitted the information. The columnist only knows the information through Wikileaks. The newspaper would print an article by a columnist attributing the information to an anonymous source. The columnist is not anonymous - but they're not the one who leaked the information, so it's all good.

      It's actually a pretty cool idea, but I am worried about the fire it would draw from the Powers That Be regarding Wikileaks. Enough power (read: governments) can trace and stop it, and maybe de-anonymize the incoming stream with enough resources. Wikileaks must either become recognized as an asset or ride below that threshold.

      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by Jahava ( 946858 )
        Quick correction: "Published the leak" should be "Published the URL that was used" (oops)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I suppose once the application becomes local tracing the submission becomes easier. There might be two ISPs in town and two newspapers. So there are two submission URLs to be searched for and finding them might not be too hard. And local laws vary. In some places it might be easy to get a law to search for a few URLs in proxy server logs.

        • by cez ( 539085 )
          Right... because it's so easy now to trace back who's getting wet over wikileaks (pun intended). With enough resources and tinfoil pretty much anything is digitally possible, lets talk probable and palpable (maybe the pope, his alien brethren, or KIT from knight rider could handle it).

          What!? ... more then one ISP in NYC. More then one cellular provider (most places lets hope). More then one proxy service / tor node.................. etc.

          Conquer the digital divide before it conquers you.- Some awesome
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lonecrow ( 931585 )
        So if my newspaper breaks the story is that a clear indication that the leaker accessed the wikileaks up-loader from my newspapers website?

        Could a lawyer construe that since I placed the link on my site for the express purpose of facilitating the upload in the first place that I was somehow complicit in, and liable for, the release of the information? IANAL but law and order keeps telling me that the parities to a conspiracy do not need to know each and still be involved in a conspiracy. I wonder if the
  • Newspapers? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by adbge ( 1693228 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @07:04PM (#30531140)

    Why release the documents to newspapers before releasing to the public?

    I feel that the public should be able to view the entire document when the newspaper does -- instead of being spoon fed snippets of the document by the media for two weeks.

    • Re:Newspapers? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @07:21PM (#30531274) Journal
      I'd assume that this is a strategic compromise on Wikileaks' part. They are trying to encourage local papers to bring them into the process of storing and disseminating juicy information, so that they can make it available to the public.

      The supply of journalists willing to play along if they get a two-week head start over their competitors is almost certainly a good deal larger than the supply of journalists willing to do so out of the goodness of their hearts.

      If the alternative were getting it now, obviously waiting two weeks would be stupid. If, however, the alternative is never seeing it, two weeks would be a tiny price to pay.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by adbge ( 1693228 )

        The supply of journalists willing to play along if they get a two-week head start over their competitors is almost certainly a good deal larger than the supply of journalists willing to do so out of the goodness of their hearts.

        It seems to me that redirecting more people to wikileaks holds sufficient incentive for journalists without the two week "holding period."

        Sending more people to wikileaks increases the likelihood of leaked information. More leaks, more news, more sales.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The two weeks is NOT so that the local newspaper can 'spoon feed snippets' it's to give an actual journalist time to verify the accuracy and authenticity of the information. Without that, wikileaks is really nothing but a gossip site.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by adbge ( 1693228 )

        Wikileaks has their own verification process independent of the local newspapers.

        Your post also flies in the face of Wikileaks philosophy. From their about page:

        Wikileaks believes that best way to truly determine if a document is authentic is to open it up for analysis to the broader community - and particularly the community of interest around the document.

        I am also highly sceptical of your implied claim that an "actual journalist's" verification is worth anything.

  • Sweet! (Score:4, Funny)

    by sootman ( 158191 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @07:05PM (#30531152) Homepage Journal

    The organization has applied for a $532,000 two-year grant from the Knight Foundation to expand the use of its secure, anonymous submission system by local newspapers.

    I knew the Knight Foundation [wikipedia.org] was real! Oh, how the kids in 4th grade used to tease me when I said I wanted to go work for them...

    • I knew the Knight Foundation [wikipedia.org] was real! Oh, how the kids in 4th grade used to tease me when I said I wanted to go work for them...

      on KR it was called FLAG -- the Foundation For Law and Government. you misunderstanding that was why they teased you.

      • I knew the Knight Foundation [wikipedia.org] was real! Oh, how the kids in 4th grade used to tease me when I said I wanted to go work for them...

        on KR it was called FLAG -- the Foundation For Law and Government. you misunderstanding that was why they teased you.

        Actually, that's wrong. The Knight Foundation was founded by Wilton Knight, and did a variety of things. FLAG was just one particular group within the Knight Foundation, and that particular group was what Knight Rider focused on. This was made clear in the pilot episode.

  • Only for... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SimonTheSoundMan ( 1012395 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @07:12PM (#30531216) Homepage

    company x to come to the UK and file a super injunction against the press reporting on the leaked information.

  • There could be anything on wikileaks. I think it all needs to be refused classification.

  • by RobinEggs ( 1453925 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @08:54PM (#30531844)

    Why should newspapers get first crack at the information posted in the leaks? It sounds like all they'd contribute is the research time of their writers (and a little local publicity), and yet the leaks would shorten and ease their research process enormously. Why give them the added benefit of two weeks exclusive time with the leaked information?

    Maybe I'm missing something here, but why should an organization built on the premise that traditional media hides the truth or doesn't have the resources to investigate it properly begin an initiative which will prop up local papers and give them exclusive stories, albeit temporarily, from the information uncovered? Does wikileaks actually like traditional media and want to help them out? Why not continue relying on their volunteer sources for the whole process?

    • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @10:04PM (#30532174)

      Why should newspapers get first crack at the information posted in the leaks? It sounds like all they'd contribute is the research time of their writers (and a little local publicity), and yet the leaks would shorten and ease their research process enormously.

      Uh, because it's often good to be able to investigate without tipping your hand? Records tend to disappear off the shelves, people stop returning your phone calls, and media relations people start spinning faster than a top...or simply saying "no comment."

      It's especially fun when they don't know you have proof of your claims, and thus spin utter bullshit lies.

    • by gencha ( 1020671 )
      Classic case of "The end justifies the means".
      They rather offer the info they get through these new channels to the newspaper exclusively for a certain time then to never get their hands on it at all.
    • by kan0r ( 805166 )
      Because their current model of crowdsourcing the leaks didnt work well so far. People are too lazy to read 600 pages of boring reports and blog about it. It's just not exciting enough. But journalists or papers maybe will.
  • Wait, wait waaaaaaaait... There really is something called the "Knight Foundation"?!?!? Please tell me they have talking cars...

  • by kan0r ( 805166 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @06:08AM (#30533972)
    WikiLeaks didn't win that challange yet and I think it would be a good idea to support them by commenting on and rating their application here: http://generalapp.newschallenge.org/SNC/ViewItem.aspx?pguid=6aee8166-fb7c-4a2e-8581-fa6f6ff036dd&itemguid=3decc665-ebd1-46f0-95f4-f5fa57311062 [newschallenge.org]

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