Author Archives: Paul Bradshaw

Four examples of different threat models

My post on threat models for journalists is quite lengthy, so I thought I’d put the sample threat models from that in their own, separate post. Here they are – note that these are very simple, sketchy threat models and you would want to expand on these. But hopefully they provide a starting point.

What info do you want to keep? Passwords. Why might someone want it? To spam. What can they do? Guess password, phishing. What might happen? Damage to brand, trust.

A basic threat model for anyone with access to a key social media account – or colleagues who do.

What info do you want to keep? Communication with sources. Why might someone want it? To prevent publicaiton, smear. What can they do? Guess/hack password, phishing, legal avenues. What might happen? Story killed, credibility, trust.

This is an example of a threat model for anyone who deals with protestors, complainants, or others who might be targets of others

What info do you want to keep? Identity/location of sources. Why might someone want it? To intimidate, attack, smear. What can they do? Guess/hack password, phishing, metadata, mobile trail, more. What might happen? Source attacked, imprisoned, trust.

When dealing with whistleblowers, leaks, or sources in oppressive regimes, you need to protect identity and location. Here’s a sample threat model for that.

What info? Documents. Why? To prevent publication, identify sources. What can they do? Guess, hack, phish passwords for cloud services. Legal avenues etc. What might happen? Story killed, credibility damaged, sources don't trust.

When working with documents, you may need to prevent others getting access to them. Here’s a sample threat model for that.

Why every journalist should have a threat model (with cats)

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you

If you’re a journalist in the 21st century you have two choices: you can choose to be paranoid, or you can choose to be delusional.

The paranoid journalist assumes that someone is out to get them. The delusional journalist assumes that no one is.

In this post I will explain why and how every journalist – whether you’re a music reporter or a political correspondent – can take a serious and informed look at their security and arrive at a reasonable evaluation of risks and safeguards.

Don’t panic. I promise that by the end of this piece you will be less anxious about security, and no longer paranoid. I also promise to use lots of lolcats. Continue reading

Over 1000 journalists are now exploring scraping techniques. Incredible.

Scraping for Journalists book coverLast week the number of people who have bought my ebook Scraping for Journalists passed the 1,000 mark. That is, to me, incredible. A thousand journalists interested enough in scraping to buy a book? What happened?

When I first began writing the book I imagined there might be perhaps 100 people in the world who would be interested in buying it. It was such a niche subject I didn’t even consider pitching it to my normal publishers.

Now it’s so mainstream that the 1000th ‘book’ was actually 12: purchased by a university which wanted multiple copies for its students to borrow – one of a number of such institutions to approach me to do so.  Continue reading

Staffordshire Council just made a very persuasive case for the value of Freedom of Information

Yesterday Staffordshire County Council controversially published details of “The cost of “Freedom of Information” to local people. The titling of that page gives some clue to its intent: FOI is a ‘cost’, and it’s you, local people, who pay.

But I think the list - despite its obvious agenda and related weaknesses - is actually rather brilliant.

Why? Because it shows just how flexible a tool FOI is, how widely it is used, and perhaps raises questions to be answered about why it has to be used in the first place.

staffordshire FOI requesters

Staffordshire’s top 10 list of FOI requesters includes a parish council, elected MP and local and national media

The top ten requesters, for example, throws up not just news organisations but a politician, a parish council, and the right wing campaign group TaxPayers’ Alliance. Continue reading

Curation vs aggregation, and why news organisations can’t be ‘the next LinkedIn’

“We are not a magazine company,” he exclaims, unprompted. “We are a media company with a portfolio.”  “We want to build the next LinkedIn, the next Gilt [a US commerce site], the next Facebook,”

M Scott Havens, senior vice president of digital, Time Inc

What does it mean to be a platform? Time Inc’s M Scott Havens is the latest to express a desire to move into the platform industry, telling The Guardian:

“We want to build the next LinkedIn, the next Gilt [a US commerce site], the next Facebook,”

Platforms came up at the BBC ‘Revival of Local Journalism‘ event last week too. Why weren’t regional newspaper publishers doing more to become ‘platforms’ for their local communities? Continue reading

BBC College of Journalism website now available outside the UK

The BBC College of Journalism has announced that their site will now be available to users outside of the UK.

The site features a wealth of content including particularly wide-ranging resources on online and multiplatform publishing. The pieces on mobile video and audio, advanced research and verification are particularly recommended.

The announcement says the site will be freely available “for a trial period of at least 12 months”, although even if the paywall is later reinstated the College does have an equally useful YouTube channel.

‘We need blogging, video, audio, or social media’ – and that’s just for an internship

Spectator intern image

Image from The Spectator – next time will it be an animated GIF?

The Spectator is advertising for interns, and the message is loud and clear on digital skills:

“Just do some of the following:-

  1. Produce a two minute video with either our audio or your own explaining a topic you’ve read about on the Spectator’s website.

  2. Prepare a sample 200-300 word blog offering something new on a topic of your choice for publishing on the Spectator’s Coffee House blog.

  3. Choose a magazine article, and work out the best way to promote it on the website, Twitter, Facebook and beyond.

  4. Suggest three ideas for potential stories.

  5. Suggest two ways in which we could improve how the Spectator’s articles are promoted digitally.”

There is one option (number 4) for those who think they can avoid digital skills – but that is the exception to the rule. It’s also the exception to the preceding instruction that “All that matters in journalism is whether you can do it.”

What the list makes clear is: even to get a foot in the door, you must be able to do it digitally.

A fairy tale: ‘Giving your content away for free’ is not the problem – giving your audience away for free is

handful of sweets

A grocer doesn’t give away content – they sell packages of content. Image by Agel Alcantara

Are publishers ‘giving away the grocery’? That’s the argument Richard Coulter, publisher of the hyperlocal paper and website Filton Voice, made In the lead up to yesterday’s BBC event on ‘The Revival of Local Journalism‘. His analogy, published on the BBC’s Academy site, described a grocer’s which opened a second shop ‘at the bottom of the hill’: Continue reading

Panini sticker albums – a great way to learn programming and statistics

1970 sticker album - image by John Cooper

1970 sticker album – image by John Cooper

When should you stop buying football stickers? I don’t mean how old should you be – but rather, at what point does the law of diminishing returns mean that it no longer makes sense to buy yet another packet of five stickers?

This was the question that struck me after seeing James Offer‘s ‘How much could it cost to fill a World Cup Sticker Album?Continue reading

Causing offence on social media – the best overview yet

Susanna Rustin has written one of the best overviews I’ve yet seen of the growing number of legal cases involving individuals being put in jail for being ‘offensive’ - vital reading if you’re interested in media freedom and media law, given the obvious implications for journalism.

The key law here is the Communications Act 2003, specifically Section 127, which I’ve written about previously in 7 laws journalists now need to know.

Rustin summarises a number of cases where individuals have been prosecuted and jailed under the Act, and focuses in particular on two recent cases relating to social media updates posted following the stabbing of a school teacher.

“The cases of [Jack] Newsome and [Robert] Riley are different. They did not target or menace individuals, and lawyers and human rights campaigners have this week raised concerns about their being jailed for causing offence.”

Former director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer, provides some useful legal context and raises his own concerns around how “too many prosecutions for these kinds of offences can have the effect of chilling free speech”:

“There always used to be a protected space, so you could say things in private you could not say in public. With social media there is no protected space, and that’s what there needs to be a debate about. The notions around place and reaction just don’t work with social media. You could have a situation where two people in their living room make remarks to each other for which they would never be arrested, but if they make these remarks by email, they could be, as the legislation covers any public electronic communication system.”

Read the article in full here.