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With Technology Comes a New World for Journalism

by on December 4, 2013

In this article in the New York Times, Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, talks about the intimidation tactics used by both the U.S. and British governments after Snowden leaked the documents.  Even more importantly for this post, Nicholas Weaver, a computer security researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, talks about the new methods reporters need to use in order to keep their stories and sources as secrets.

Among other things, he says that reporters now have to leave all high-tech gadgets at home so as not to be tracked, meet in a somewhat noisy, public location so no one overhears, and wear a hat so they are not caught on camera.  He also says reporters have to walk to meetings because they do not want their license plates to be identified.  Or, they can use cash to buy a transit ticket.

Personally, I think all of these things are a bit ridiculous.  However, I realize that in today’s world, they are necessary.  As much as I love being able to talk to friends instantly who are miles away or Google whatever question pops into my head, I often wonder if, as a journalist, it would be better if I lived in a world with a bit less technology.  Of course it would be easier to protect my sources, but would it still be relatively easy to find good sources in the first place?

Weighing the many pros and cons of technology and journalism, is it better to have all this technology even though it makes keeping the anonymity of sources more difficult?  Or is it better to have less technology but more freedom to do your job without putting sources at risk?

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