Professionals Handle Materials the way they would Handle Themselves - Professionally | Crime
INTERNATIONAL: An issue we have not been able to run away from recently, is the handling of confidential or classified information. From who did what with a piece of technology to what was released from where in reference to what. - What? Right!
The "Nature of the Beast" Everyone likes to beat the other guy to a story. But at what cost?
From time to time, journalists will find materials float across our desks from various sources and some are less credible than others, all require vetting to a degree, and proper handling. In an n environment where information must be communicated to prevent criminal activity and prevent individuals and organizations from harm, the government should be able to communicate with vulnerable individuals without fear of the information landing in whole, or in part as a hyperlink embedded in an article. Things could be worse, if the hyperlink ended up in an article that was promoted with an email subscription link.
Information - I was told this, by this guy, but why? and for what purpose? Vetting Your Sources
There will always be situations where from time to time, where information that is being communicated from law enforcement or government that is not meant for general public disclosure and this could be for many reasons, there may be an imminent threat that is being dealt with. There may be a verified technology that can be exploited and the public can be harmed.
While government has become more transparent, reaching out to industry, media, and building a bridge of trust with individuals and organizations, recipients must, if they are true professionals and want a seat at the adults' table, bring the correct behavior or their access will be investigated and revoked. As always, misuse of classified information can cause criminal charges.
It is not like we did not tell you. In most cases sensitive information will be marked accordingly.
Anytime that a government document has classification markings on it: "Official Use Only" (which has not been publically released with approval), Or is labeled with "TLP: Green" for similar information for industry partners, this information is likely the result of a live or recent government investigation, and to distribute the information prematurely can place individuals, organizations, law enforcement, sources, in harm’s way and the government is asking that the information not to appear on forward or public facing websites.
Freedom of the Press vs. Health and Safety of others
We the people, have rights, freedom of the press for example, and these are inalienable. Congress shall pass no law... at the same time this must be balanced with the right for individuals to have the equal protection under law not to be harmed, and to preserve the domestic tranquility and national security.
If you are a quality Journalist, you never have to rely on a single source. Nor should you only have one.
- There is always a different way to say the same thing.
- Sometimes the delivery of news can be made more compelling, by using a unique writing style.
- Using a group of industry sources from different backgrounds can bring credibility and add value to the content of your story. This can be done with high level research tools, industry trades, scholarly journals, or paying close attention industry, the good and bad of it equally so you have a wealth of knowledge.
- See what I did there? (Insert meme here) Just kidding - What I did was say something three different ways. (Yeah, exciting)
- Posting a pdf to an article as a reference is sloppy journalism, sources should use AMA citation style, if writing for the web.
Content can the information be sourced without the sensitive data
- Technical briefs
- Basic "best practices"
- Trouble shooting articles and knowledgebase.
- Basic general knowledge of the sector you specialize in. Things you learn by doing.
- Get your head out of the hardcover textbooks. $49.99 (Tech moves faster than a publishing date)
- Reach out and do an actual interview
- Email an authority on the subject
Here's an idea - contact the source of the document - Sullivan Protection
By contacting a Public Information Officer, this individual may have information that is not embargoed, may have additional resources, authorities and subject matter experts that can add material to your story. The individual may be able to direct you away or give you the reasoning behind the classification. Building relations with P.I.O.s strengthens your credibility, adds value to your content and if nothing else and you find information that contradicts the information presented by the P.I.O. you, as a reporter can rest assured on your Sullivan Protection - you did the job of contacting the source. In addition, you build a two-way street of respect and professionalism.
If you see something - Say something - Not "Hey Jim, look at this aunt’s this interesting."
- Catchy slogan, kind of Orwellian, whatever - it is important. So you log into your email after lunch, you have a new addition to your paisley tie from the sub place around the corner, (do I localize much?) and you see a really nice looking government document and you read through, uh huh, okay.
- Quickly scan for PIO contact. All government communications have them.
- Quickly scan for a Classification. If you do not find "Immediate Release", "News Release" (or similar), or find something that looks funky, you will know it when you see it - if you are a pro, you'll get the feeling in your gut, or you have seen enough of these to know, okay, some idiot released something that they should not have.
Here's what to do: Contact the PIO immediately and inform the operator that a confidential document is in the wild, or public view and the source. If the data is released and published online the document's urn, or website address. The issuing agency will investigate how the individual received the information, and if on an email list, or access - it will likely be revoked.
Immediately delete the materials you have received. Because, they do not belong to you. And congrats, by downloading the document you, technically made your workstation, by definition and statute, classified. So, if you accidently send that as an attachment, oops. If you get hacked, oops. If your computer fails and the repair guy sees it, oops. It is on you.
I know this article may rub true believers in the First Amendment the wrong way, and I understand that some reporters, may not like this article. I worked as an administrative assistant at a local station as support staff in the newsroom and I have heard all the arguments on content, and actually they are great discussions to have. Important, professional and multi-dimensional. There is never a loser in an argument like that - as long as when you can't decide - call legal. True professional will understand what I am saying - everyone else will roll those annoying prepared agency stories while backtiming to aculeate.