When Newspaper Enthusiasts Become Investigative Journalists
Thousands of emails belonging to former governor Sarah Palin are currently being analyzed in an unprecedented public media campaign for information.
Three years after former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin’s candidacy, Alaskan state authorities have published over 24,000 pages of emails from her time in office. The media’s interest in these emails is immense: could they reveal juicy information on Palin’s conduct in office before her candidacy for the vice presidency in the 2008 election?
The government agency responsible hasn’t made it easy to analyze the data: the emails were published in paper-form, printed and put in boxes for storage in the capital of Juneau (a city only accessible by plane or boat). There were exactly six full boxes for every broadcasting company that had ordered the printed emails.
After the heavy schlep back to their editorial offices, journalists found themselves faced with the daunting task of reading all 24,000 printed emails. In order to cope with the huge task at hand, even resource-laden editorials such as the New York Times and the Guardian fell back on external resources for assistance. The Guardian hoped to get help from the crowd – or from their readership to be exact. The Guardian invited their crowd to participate in the data analysis from their website www.guardian.co.uk.
And so here is where news readers become investigative journalists, reading original Palin emails and filling out a corresponding survey to report how interesting or suspicious they are. When readers find something especially interesting or delicate in the material, they have the additional option to tweet or message the media corporation directly.
So far 21,705 emails have been successfully analyzed this way, of which 8,506 were reported as uninteresting and almost 2,700 as personal. However, there have been several critical voices in the mix; many of the emails just aren’t fit for publication because they contain private information.
But Tim Crawford, Chief Financial Officer of the election campaign Sarah PAC, personally saw the emails as something positive. “The emails detail a Governor hard at work. Everyone should read them,” he said.
If you would like to find out more on the “Sarah Palin emails,” you can follow their analysis at www.guardian.co.uk or you can even investigate for scandals in unread emails yourself!
Last update: 24 August, 2011