When the State of Alaska releases almost 25,000 of Sarah Palin’s emails from her tenure as governor today, the media won’t be the only ones poring over it. The Washington Post and New York Times are putting copies on the Web for the public to review and are asking people to alert them to what they find.
Once upon a time, seeking public participation in a reporting project would have been a remote consideration, and the Washington Post actually originally intended to invite just a small group to participate. Now it’s all comers. What the Post is asking:
“Please include page numbers and, where possible, a direct excerpt. We’ll share your comments with our reporters and may use facts or related material you suggest to annotate the documents displayed on The Post site. We may contact you for further details, by way of your registered e-mail with the Post, unless you specify otherwise in the comments.”
If this is successful, expect to see more of it — and expect smaller news organizations to follow suit. Perhaps no one would be considering this, or they would be slower to consider it, if news staffs were the size they were even 10 years ago. But the online news audience expects to have this level of involvement. It’s smart not to try to hold everything back.
UPDATE: Belated links — The Times’ site for reading the e-mails and submitting tips. I’ll post a link to the Post’s site … as soon as I can find the thing. The Post seems to have hidden it. Links that say “read the Palin emails” and solicit help point here, but as of this writing I see no links to any site with the emails or how to help (and, as usual with the Post’s site, it takes FOREVER for each page to load).
UPDATE: The Post has links to the emails here. Still not seeing anything like a “Post your tips here” link.
FOR A CONTRARY POINT OF VIEW, see this from Fast Company. I’m not sure you can declare a success or failure within hours of an attempt, but we’ll know within a day or two, anyway.