This Christmas, encrypt your emails and make the haystack bigger

Why should journalists be interested in web security? You may not fear your social media accounts being hacked by propagandists, your email hacked by companies you write about, or your phone records being seen by police, but there is another good reason for adopting security measures.

“Anonymity loves company,” security researcher Ross Anderson reminded attendees at this month’s Logan Symposium on secrecy, surveillance and censorship. “You can only hide in a crowd.”

In other words, the more people who use encryption in their email, or other security measures, the less unusual it becomes.

And the more widespread these practices are, the harder it is for the contents of messages to be used to identify whistleblowers – whether that is with journalists, charities, or even whistleblowing services (remember that only the message is encrypted, not the identity of the sender or recipient).

So if you have some spare time over the festive period, why not get yourself set up with an email client like Thunderbird with a plugin like Enigmail, and get started.

3 reasons why 2014 was the year news organisations finally ‘got’ web-native production

obama multimedia story

This Independent story includes two embedded YouTube videos and a Flickr photo gallery

Something remarkable happened this year. Something I’ve been waiting for for a long time.

News reports on the web finally started to look more and more like… well, web-native articles.

Not print articles online, not broadcast journalism online, but online journalism, online. I’m talking about journalism which isn’t just text: whether that means linking and embedding or mixing text with images, video or audio.

So what changed in 2014? Here are three factors I’ve noticed growing in influence over the last 12 months. Continue reading

Serial: all good journalism is voyeurism – and bad journalism too (but it’s still journalism)

serial podcast people map

After reporting on online journalism for some time you tire quickly of people saying “this is not journalism“. On Tuesday Brian C. Jones leveled this accusation at the podcast sensation Serial:

Sarah Koenig, the lead producer and narrator … used the tools of legitimate reporting — the right to public records, access to experts, the goodwill of interviewees, compelling soundbites, stylish storytelling … — to intrude into and disrupt real lives for the fun of it. It’s voyeurism, not journalism.”

Serial follows Koenig as she attempts to get to the bottom of a murder conviction she suspects may be a miscarriage of justice. The fact that she does not know whether it is or not is the basis of Jones’s misgivings:

“Real-life stories hurt the peopled involved … When the reporting phase is exhausted, it’s crucial to understand what kind of a story it is, and maybe whether it is a story at all.”

I think Jones makes a mistake common to those used to traditional journalistic production practices: firstly to mistake the subject for the purpose; and secondly to misunderstand modern journalism techniques. Continue reading

How The Cambodia Daily went HTTPS to protect its readers – guest post

Last month The Cambodia Daily announced it was going HTTPS. In a guest post for OJB Joshua Wilwohl explains why they decided to go secure, and how they did it. (Disclosure: Joshua is a student of mine on the MA in Online Journalism by distance learning at Birmingham City University).

During the past year, The Cambodia Daily has witnessed an increase in government interest in monitoring the Internet.

This week, the newspaper revealed a government plan to inspect the network equipment, billing and data files of mobile phone operators and internet service providers.

Government officials argued this was to help with investigations into crime committed over Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

But computer crime experts said the Government’s planned tactics could also be used to monitor people’s phone calls and Internet data. As one expert said: Continue reading

Podcast: Journalism outside the website, from WhatsApp to Email

I recently hosted a podcast discussion at Birmingham City University for my MA Online Journalism students on ‘platform publishing‘: in other words, journalism on platforms other than traditional websites.

My guests discussed their experiences of publishing for email, SnapChat, Tumblr, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They were: Continue reading

Protecting whistleblowers, anonymity – and Daniel Ellsberg. Day 2 of the Logan Symposium

In a guest post for the Online Journalism Blog, Natalie Leal reports on Day 2 of the Logan Symposium on secrecy, surveillance and censorship. You can find a post about Day 1 here.

The surprise of the Logan Symposium‘s second day was the appearance of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked those documents in 1971. “Secrets are not kept so much by technical means but by people,” he said. Continue reading

Tip: If your blog comments have moved to Twitter, embed tweets at the end of your posts

What happens when people comment on your blog – but it’s not on your blog?

More often than not people now comment on a blog post by tweeting – essentially microblogging – their response.

Those comments can be valuable – but they’re lost to anyone reading the original post and, indeed, yourself, unless you can later find it through search.

In ye olde days of blogging, blogged responses could be automatically added to your comments section via pingbacks. But microblogged responses don’t qualify for pingbacks.

So why not add them manually: embed those tweets at the end of your article by pasting the link to the tweet. WordPress will automatically turn that link into an embedded tweet.

You can then subhead those embedded tweets as ‘Comments‘, or add an ‘UPDATE‘.

For two examples see the end of this post on Curation, aggregation and why news organisations can’t be ‘the next LinkedIn’. Or this post on capitalisation in UK headlines, updated with a response from Guardian Style: