Maybe this really is the age of WikiLeaks. Transparency, hacks, and secrets of all stripes are currently getting big play in media news, ranging from the travails of Anthony Weiner’s penis to shady New York Times snooping and the Freedom of Information Act at work. We’ve seen the latter in the case of Osama Bin Laden’s death pictures and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Cathie Black correspondence, both unsuccessful for journalists up to this point, but today, some open records law success, albeit a little late. A handful of publications, including MSNBC, ProPublica, and Mother Jones have been granted access to Sarah Palin’s emails as the governor of Alaska, which the reporters filed for under Alaskan law back during the 2008 campaign. More details on everyone’s secrets inside Press Clips, our daily media column.
Piles of Palin: As usually happens, journalists were hit with a bunch of delays in seeking out rightfully public information in the case of Governor Palin, but now Alaska “is finally preparing to release those emails, probably within the next week or so,” Mother Jones reports.
Though Palin served only half of a term, there will be 24,199 pages of records made public, with some stuff left out and some redacted. Government tends to make this sort of thing hard for journalists, as we’ve seen. Here’s Mother Jones:
The state has a history of making liberal use of exemptions to hold back gubernatorial records. Months before Palin was tapped by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the GOP presidential nominee, to be his running mate in 2008, her office declined to release 1,100 emails from two Palin aides in response to an open records request filed by citizen activist Andrée McLeod. The state claimed that these emails were exempt because they concerned confidential policy matters. Yet a list of the subject headings of the withheld emails referred to non-policy and political matters, suggesting that the state had taken a decidedly expansive interpretation of the available exemptions.
The magazine, in a partnership with MSNBC.com and ProPublica, will create a WikiLeaks-style searchable archive with the records. Scavenger hunt!
Streaming: Meanwhile, the New York Times reports today on Goldman Sachs fall-guy Fabrice Tourre, admitting that much of their reporting came from emails no one knew they could see:
These legal replies, which are not public, were provided to The New York Times by Nancy Cohen, an artist and filmmaker in New York also known as Nancy Koan, who says she found the materials in a laptop she had been given by a friend in 2006.
The friend told her he had happened upon the laptop discarded in a garbage area in a downtown apartment building. E-mail messages for Mr. Tourre continued streaming into the device, but Ms. Cohen said she had ignored them until she heard Mr. Tourre’s name in news reports about the S.E.C. case. She then provided the material to the Times. Mr. Tourre’s lawyer did not respond to an inquiry for comment.
Felix Salmon thinks that vague language means the Times could’ve hacked the computer, which very well might be illegal, though the Times maintains, to Yahoo’s Cutline, “We are confident that our receipt and use of those documents was in keeping with our journalistic standards and complied with the law.”
Tupac Back: Lastly in hack news, Times reporter Brian Stelter looks into the nightmare that is losing control of your own website, through the lens of PBS NewsHour and Frontline, whose documentary on WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning got them abused by an army of Internet hackers. With their pulpit, the hackers did what any serious pranksters would: They reported Tupac was still alive.
Grantland Comin’: America’s most popular sports writer, ESPN’s Bill Simmons, gets a largely innocuous profile in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, but in it, he does admit to being a little tired of running his not-yet-launched website Grantland, which aims to take long-form sports and pop culture writing to the Web in a literary way.
Simmons says he doesn’t like the name Grantland, which is “pretentious” as he fears, and that getting the site running “hasn’t been as much as fun as I had thought.” He admits, “I’m not sure I would do it again,” because he doesn’t like the office work interfering with his writing.