Posted by Tom Foremski - May 5, 2011
The Wall Street Journal has launched SafeHouse - "Securely share information with The Wall Street Journal."
If you have newsworthy contracts, correspondence, emails, financial records or databases from companies, government agencies or non-profits, you can send them to us using the SafeHouse service.
It's an interesting concept but one with a problem: anonymity. It's tough for a reporter to pursue an anonymous tip. It's even tougher to wade through documents if you don't know what to look for, what the story is.
That's why using "sources," in which the reporter guarantees anonymity, is more than half the battle to getting a story right. It's also why only a small fraction of WikiLeaks documents have been released and written up as news stories
The SafeHouse site stresses anonymity, however, it also says, "Your name and contact information are optional but could aid our journalists in their reporting."
And then it says it again: "Being able to contact you if needed can greatly help our ability to pursue a story quickly. We strongly encourage you to provide contact info if anonymity is not required."
I'm not sure how useful SafeHouse will be to the Wall Street Journal. The Atlantic reports that, "File transfers occur through an encrypted connection and the documents themselves are encrypted, too. (Only a few Journal staffers will have the keys to unlock them.)"
It'll take up a lot of time, by select senior WSJ reporters, to look through documents without much context for what to look for. And then following up on those stories will take a considerable amount of time, if there is no willing source to guide them.
I can see it useful as part of a process of working with a "source" and enabling them to have a secure way of giving key documents to a reporter. And there may also be some great stories... some needles in a haystack. It's an interesting experiment.
The WSJ is a profitable newspaper and under the leadership of Editor, Robert Thomson, it's doing extremely well. [Disclosure: I worked with Mr Thomson when I was at the FT and he was US Editor.]
The WSJ has considerable resources to pursue many avenues of landing scoops -- and that's scoops in the traditional sense of the word -- it doesn't mean publishing a rewrite of a press release before everyone else's rewrite.