German journalist and co-founder of OpenLeaks Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who set up the whistleblowing platform after leaving WikiLeaks, called on journalists at the World Editors Forum in Vienna to become “more aggressive” in publishing public interest information.
Speaking on a panel titled ‘After WikiLeaks: The next step for newspapers’, Domscheit-Berg highlighted the importance of the role of journalists in extracting the stories from leaked material while WikiLeaks offers whistleblowers an ease of digital data-dumping not available through news organisations.
WikiLeaks offers part of the aggression that the civilians expect from you people but you don’t give it back to them.
The only new thing I think about the whole WikiLeaks story is that it offered people a means to submit large amounts of information that was easier than contacting you, by just a few clicks online. In the digital society this is what you as an industry needs.
The OpenLeaks model, which is not currently live, works on the premise that its role is to provide the technology for whistleblowers to pass on material to specific organisations, news outlets and NGOs, based on the needs of the source.
Domscheit-Berg said the platform was set live for five days in August which proved to be “quite successful”.
We want to be facilitators. We don’t ever want to get in situation of having information and then deciding who to give it to.
At WikiLeaks we had this big cache of documents and we wanted to collaborate with a few newspapers. So if you are an outfit that enables whistleblowers then you will have the trouble of not being political in who you work with.
A source of OpenLeaks can pick the organisation they think is good, and we pass it on. They decide how to go along with making this public. This will enable a more robust process.
Near the end of the session he also called on journalists to share information more freely.
I believe that we’re living in an information age, developing into an information age and in that age information is the currency so it’s very important that because of this world being so complex that we share this information.
It wouldn’t be right to offer a mechanism to make sure journalists get more papers and then put them in a drawer and the public will not know.
You need to be more aggressive in the way you’re publishing, being transparent and showing that you’ve done a good job. This will not only be better for everybody it will also make sure you get more credibility.
This is part of what the future needs, that we give out more information.
He added that OpenLeaks has mechanisms in place to ensure that, with the source’s permission, even if information is given to one organisation, it will be shared with others.
This is so the media do not depend on copying stories from each other but use source material from each other. This sharing is what the future needs.
He added that in the future the platform will also look to bringing in the wider community to help in the investigative process of working through larger batches of material.
There will be more from this panel on Journalism.co.uk soon.