Protecting whistleblowers

Careful steps must be taken to protect the identities of whistleblowers whose information could lead to serious consequences. Chicago journalist Brandon Smith led a workshop addressing how journalists can provide security for their sources sponsored by Working Journalists.

“They (whistleblowers) are relying on you the journalist to keep them safe,” Smith said.

He cited the McAfee incident as a cautionary tale. Software developer John McAfee had shared his location with one reporter so the reporter could interview him while he was in hiding on the condition the reporter would keep McAfee’s location a secret. However, the reporter inadvertently led officials to McAfee’s door because the proper precautions to remove metadata from the photo accompanying the story were not taken.

Assess what information a whistleblower has given away when he/she has contacted you the journalist, Smith said. That includes what is said but also the method of communication, which in certain cases can tip off an employer to the fact that one of his or her employees is talking to you.

Security measures vary depending on how the journalist is getting information from a whistleblower. If it’s via e-mail, Smith recommended the informant use an e-mail account not connected to any personal information for the whistleblower. If it’s via the phone, a burner phone paid for in cash. If it’s in person, neither source nor reporter should bring a cell phone to hide the location.

None of this actually ensures security. Security is all about knowing who you’re up against. And because nearly any kind of detection is theoretically possible, defense is all about making it prohibitively expensive for your adversary to figure out what’s going on, Smith said.

About 85 percent of large media outlets have been hacked so the hacker can identify the journalists’ sources, according to two security researchers who worked for Google. Disk encryption defends against your research or contacts being read in the event your *powered off* device is stolen or confiscated. If it’s asleep or screen-locked, no dice. And if your data is backed up to the cloud, you have to worry about the security of the cloud protocol.

-Sunlight Foundation () and Muck Rock ()for FOIA tutorials
-Tor, anonymous Web browser to hide the location of the user
-Tails, an operating system that masks browser traffic, stored on a USB drive
-encryption apps: TextSecure to protect text messages for Androids
RedPhone to protect voice
Signal for iPhones (includes RedPhone)

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Working Journalists

WJ logo small

Working Journalists helps Chicago-area freelance journalists get jobs, get paid for those jobs and bolster their skills so they can do their jobs better. We are a union because its structure gives us the means to serve freelancers with such benefits as press credentials, assistance collecting payment and monthly workshops. The ultimate goal is to create better working conditions for freelancers and get them jobs!

A look at WJ’s upcoming events:
Freelance Mixer & Open House
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 15
Where: CivicLab, 114 N. Aberdeen, Chicago (between Washington and Randolph), 3 blocks from Green Line Morgan/Lake stop
What: Casual networking opportunity with fellow freelance journalists as well as to explore CivicLab’s space. Working Journalists has an opportunity to partner with CivicLab to offer work space to its members–if the members like the space.

Source Security Workshop
When: 6 p.m. Monday, April 27
Where: CivicLab, 114 N. Aberdeen, Chicago
What: How to protect sources who need their identities hidden during your story’s preparation or after it’s filed.

Freelance Mixer
When: 6 p.m., May 14
Where: TBA

DIY Web sites
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 26
Where: 17 N. State St., room 820 (8th floor)
What: Do-it-yourself Web sites workshop covering platforms such as WordPress and NationBuilder.

Past events:
Getting Found on the Web 101 link to presenter’s blog:
Freelancer Finance 4-1-1 link to YouTube video:

Questions? E-mail us at

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Name change

Following the footsteps of our national union, the executive board voted to change our name to Chicago News Guild. The national changed its name to The News Guild, dropping “paper” from the name at the national multi-sector conference in January.

Chicago News Guild is working on adjusting its photos, logo and other material to reflect the name change.

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Welcome members of the Reader

From Chicago Newspaper Guild President Dave Pollard:
I first would like to say thank you all for taking the first step toward becoming a part of Chicago Newspaper Guild.
Your unanimous vote toward being recognized under the Guild shows your solidarity toward making positive changes in your workplace and creating a strong unified voice in the workplace. I believe I speak for all members of Guild and The Newspaper Guild when I say “Welcome!”
You’ve made a brave and bold decision, but you’ve joined a union that advocates aggressively on behalf of our members who work in the newsroom and our members in different industries represented by us.
This is just the beginning but it is a strong and resounding one that I believe will result in very positive outcomes in the future.
Once again: welcome, and I look forward to serving you and working with you to achieve your goals.
Yours in solidarity,
David Pollard
Chicago Newspaper Guild

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McKinney situation update

Nearly 500 people have signed a Chicago Newspaper Guild online petition asking whether political influence was the reason the Chicago Sun-Times took reporter Dave McKinney off his beat covering state politics at a critical moment during the last election, a move which ultimately led to McKinney’s resignation.

After writing a story about gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, McKinney was placed on leave and removed from his beat.

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President’s letter in support of McKinney

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Recently, we lost a good member of the Chicago Newspaper Guild. It was not due to disinterest in the union or a new job opportunity, but for just doing a good job.

Dave McKinney has worked for the Chicago Sun-Times as its Springfield bureau chief for 19 years. For the most part, he’s a lone reporter in the state capital among hundreds of political heavyweights who would love to have his favor in reporting the news, but you don’t get that type of job if you are easily swayed and lack journalistic integrity.

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Survey says …

Chicago-area freelancers like the freedom to run their own schedules, but they don’t like low pay or having trouble finding work.

“(I’m) having difficulty keeping a steady work flow. I’m concerned every month to make ends meet,” one survey respondent wrote.

This was a common theme among the responses freelancers provided in a 20-question survey asking for candid, anonymous responses explaining the realities of being a freelance/independent media professional in the Chicago area.

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Now that state, county and city/village elections are over, it’s time for Chicago Newspaper Guild to hold elections. Make your voice heard to have a say in the local’s leadership!
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12
Where: 17 N. State St. Suite 820 (8th floor), Chicago
Parking: 20 E. Randolph

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McKinney petition

In the wake of longtime Chicago Sun-Times political reporter Dave McKinney’s recent resignation, newsroom staff authored a petition asking for reassurance from Sun-Times CEO Timothy Knight and Wrapports board chairman Michael Ferro that reporters will be able to do their jobs without interference from politicians and/or company investors. This petition comes directly from the members. You can read and sign it here:

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Addressing sale rumors

Chicago Newspaper Guild leaders met with Sun-Times Media representatives and asked questions about the Guild’s contracts. The Guild expects answers from the company in coming days.

As of Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, Chicago Newspaper Guild has no official news from Sun-Times Media regarding rumors of a sale of properties to the Chicago Tribune.

“After meeting with a representative of Sun-Times Media about this possible purchase of the suburban newspapers, we had the opportunity to ask questions about this issue and are looking forward to a prompt response to put the rumor mill to rest,” Chicago Newspaper Guild President David Pollard said.

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