Turning document dumping on its head

It’s a well-known fact that the timing of information release has a substantial impact on coverage. And there’s nothing new about the government leveraging that...

It’s a well-known fact that the timing of information release has a substantial impact on coverage. And there’s nothing new about the government leveraging that fact by dumping a load of previously secret documents on the press at late hours, leaving virtually no time to sift through them and pull out anything significant before deadline.

But, as The New York Sun points out, new media, blogging in particular, is turning that practice on its head.

Late Monday night, the Justice Department released 3,000 internal memos, e-mails, and other documents related to the recent firing scandal involving eight US attorneys.

Readers of liberal-leaning news blog www.tpmmuckraker.com “quickly began grabbing 50-page chunks of the scanned documents from a House of Representatives Internet server, analyzing them and excerpting them… By 4:30am, more than 220 postings were up detailing various aspects of the files.”

Mark Fabiani, an attorney who helped Bill Clinton manage Whitewater and other scandals, told the Sun, “the immediate and intense scrutiny from hundreds of sets of eyes would have experts in crisis communications reconsidering some of their tactics.”

Fabiani, who admitted that when he worked in the White House, he preferred to release potentially damaging information right before the weekend, added: "You're right to regard it as a major development. It could really change the way things get done."

Now, the postings were largely unorganized and gathered in the blog’s comments section… imagine what a more organized effort could produce.

It lends some credence to Assignment Zero’s crowdsourcing experiment.

Previously

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