One of the most influential journalism stories of all time is the work done by Woodward and Bernstein on the Watergate scandal, which later became a book and then a highly rated movie. The technology that was used by Woodward and Bernstein is primitive compared to what is used today, typewriters, phone boxes, landlines along with pen and paper was the tools of their trade.
The Watergate of today WikiLeaks and also the Edward Snowden revelations were broken using technology such as computers, email, encryption, the internet, smartphones, and social media especialy Twitter, which would have made Woodward and Bernstein’s job a lot easier. With all this technology being used it can make it easier and also harder to cover and share ground breaking stories, as on the one hand you easily share stories but on the other hand some of the technology you are using can be easily spied on.
When a new website promises to share with the world information gathered by various whistleblowers, there will always be detractors who for various reasons are disparaging. Organisation’s such as Nama and the online publication the Intercept are helping to change our perceptions of what is good journalism and why websites that rely on whistleblowers are just as important as the mainstream media.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation’s websites states: “Protecting the communications between journalists and sources is one of the most important press freedom issues of the 21st Century. A record number of whistleblowers have recently been prosecuted in large part because the government thinks it can obtain the email and phone call records of any interaction, without ever attempting to force journalists to testify against their sources in court.”
Last Monday, an Irish Website, Namaleaks was launched and its main aim is to allow whistleblowers to anonymously share information. The information that the whistleblowers pass on will help uncover possible injustice and poor practice related to NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) and financial institutions. Founded by Mick Wallace TD, Namaleaks also has Cormac Butler (financial consultant), Clare Daly TD, Frank McDonald (Irish Times journalist) and Julien Mercille (University College Dublin academic) on board. Since Namaleaks aims to publish information that is of public interest and also embarrassing to certain people, it is imperative that all of their sources and their information are well protected. To help them do this the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Intercept were closely involved in the development of Namaleaks including advising on how to leak which can be seen below.
It also worth noting that no method of communication is 100% secure and it is stated on the Namaleaks website: “Below, we outline several methods for you to get in touch with us and send us documents. However, please be aware that no system can ever fully guarantee your security (and anybody who says otherwise for any system is lying). Any method of communication always has at least a theoretical possibility of being hacked, even when conceived and used by experts like Snowden. This being said, the methods proposed below offer safe ways to communicate with us. We at Namaleaks will do everything in our power to protect your identity. Nevertheless, in some cases, the best way to protect your anonymity may be not to disclose your identity even to us.”
With websites like WikiLeaks, the Intercept and now Namaleaks becoming popular a new revolution in journalism is taking place. This revolution is resulting in stories that the mainstream media barely covers or won’t touch, being published, resulting in virtual newsrooms becoming more common place.
As I previously mentioned there will always be detractors and whenever they pop their heads over the parapet, it is a sure sign that journalists are doing their jobs properly, reporting unbiased news and you can also sense that someone is getting worried. The ability to publish stories online that can be shared with the world is something that we should embrace and cherish, and websites such as Namaleaks should be allowed to flourish without interference from vested interests. After all, would you want to live in a society as depicted in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451?