WSJ soliciting leaked documents: 6 ways PR pros should prepare

The most-widely read newspaper in the U.S. launched a WikiLeaks-style website to collect information and documents. Here’s what you need to know about it.


The Wall Street Journal is getting in to the leaked documents business.

The most-widely read newspaper in the U.S. on Thursday announced it has created a stand-alone website on secure servers allowing the public to submit materials along with their contact information or remain anonymous.

The site is called SafeHouse.

Although there is no mention of this being an alternative to Wikileaks, you don’t have to read between the lines to assume that’s exactly what it is. Remember, Time magazine called WikiLeaks the biggest journalism development since the Freedom of Information Act.

It in its news release, Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief of Dow Jones & Company and managing editor of WSJ, said: “The Wall Street Journal is the world’s most trusted source of news, and SafeHouse will enable the collection of information and documents that could be used in the generation of trustworthy news stories.”

WSJ said SafeHouse provides a single location for readers to submit information on any topic via multiple available formats, including text files, audio recordings, photos, and more. Information provided to SafeHouse will be reviewed and vetted by a senior editor assigned to manage the information.

If a user prefers to be considered a confidential source before agreeing to provide materials to WSJ, the user can fill out a secure online form, and an editor will follow up directly.

Given the high-profile stories generated by WikiLeaks, and legal problems by its founder Julian Assange, it makes sense that WSJ would try to move into the leaked documents realm. Plus, its name carries some cache and journalistic integrity to determine what to release and what not to.

Given this mainstream move into the leaked documents world, here are some common-sense steps when it comes to internal and external communications strategies:

• Remember that anything in writing can be forwarded, copied, saved or rebroadcast;
• Confidential communications are best handled in person, not via e-mail;
• Never say anything in an e-mail that you wouldn’t want your boss or competitor to read;
• Engage legal and communications team counsel early for particularly sensitive issues and documents;
• If a confidential document must be distributed electronically, be sure to watermark it “Draft” and/or “Confidential” and ensure the recipients understand the importance of keeping the document confidential
• Consider copying sensitive correspondence to the legal department, thus creating privilege.

Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor with 20 years of experience. He heads-up the crisis communication/issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at grudawsky@groundfloormedia.com.

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