A few news orginazations are offering readers the chance to team up with reporters to dig through the cache of Sarah Palin emails due to be released in Alaska on Friday morning. We counted at least three collaborative reporting efforts hosted by major news organizations that crowdsource the frighteningly time-consuming effort to read the 24,199 pages of documents. With varying levels of exclusivity and involvement in the pro-am reporting process, there's something for everybody. For the Palin voyeurs, it's a free peek into the former Alaska governor's Yahoo! inbox--much cheaper than the 3¢ a page it would cost otherwise to buy the emails. For cash-strapped news organizations, it's a free pack of people willing to spend their weekend doing a job reporters would otherwise do. For journalism, it's a fun experiment. After all, this kind of thing should happen more often.
Undoubtedly, the big investigative effort will not be good for the Palin camp. Judging by the number and nature of past scandals spawned from leaked emails, it's going to be a mess. So get yourself signed up for one of the reporting teams below. And The Atlantic Wire wouldn't mind tips either, come to think of it!
- Washington Post - The strongest showing so far on collaborative reporting comes from The Washington Post. From what we can gather--the "Read more" link describing the process is an infinite loop that points back to a single description--the team will be limited to 100 spots and largely contingent on the enthusiasm and reporting experience conveyed in a brief application. ("Write a few sentences. What's your interest in the emails? What makes you a good researcher? How much do you know about Alaska/Palin history?" the prompt reads.) Post blogger Rachel Weiner is currently on her way to Alaska to fetch the documents. There's also a Twitter feed you can follow for updates.
- MSNBC/ProPublica/Mother Jones - Sort of an all-star cross-platform kind of thing, the trio of media outlets are committed to scanning and uploading every one of the 24,199 emails to the web database. According to Mother Jones's announcement about the project that database "will be searchable and fully open to the public" and should be ready for reading by the end of next week.
- The New York Times - By way of The Caucus political blog, the paper of record will also recruit the talent of the crowd. Details on how it will work so far are quite scant, however. The Times's instructions read like tea leaves compared to the Post's slick Google forms, Twitter feeds and headcounts:
We’re asking readers to help us identify interesting and newsworthy e-mails, people and events that we may want to highlight. Interested users can fill out a simple form to describe the nature of the e-mail, and provide a name and e-mail address so we’ll know who should get the credit. Join us here on Friday afternoon and into the weekend to participate.
Undoubtedly, the local Alaskan press will also bum rush the governor's office to pick up the 250-pound cache of documents. In addition to their own paper, the Anchorage Daily News reports that requests for the full batch came from the three organizations above as well as the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press and CNN. No word yet from the whistleblower-to-be who may have access to the 2,275 pages of email not being released.