Of course, the heat surrounding the Wikileaks disclosures owes much to the classified nature of the documents involved — diplomatic cables and the like. And it's worth noting that, on the state and local level, that wouldn't be much of an issue.
Indeed, some of the most promising applications of the Wikileaks model could come in the relatively hassle-free exposure of State House corruption and misuse of local tax dollars.
The coming Openleaks project seems to have potential here. But there are already other efforts underway. Matt Terenzio, web development director at The Hour newspaper in Norwalk, Connecticut, launched localeaks.com in January after developing the idea during a course on entrepreneurial journalism at the City University of New York.
The site allows users to upload tips or documents and send them anonymously to 1400 newspapers and other media organizations around the country — including the East Greenwich Pendulum, the Newport Daily News, the Woonsocket Call, the Kent County Daily Times, the Times of Pawtucket, and the Westerly Sun in Rhode Island.
The impact has been modest to date, says Terenzio. Just 76 of the 1400 media organizations have fully activated their accounts and 46 have disabled them. He knows of no stories, yet, that have come of localeaks tips. And the system, he acknowledges, is in some respects just an up-to-date conduit for the sort of information newsrooms have long obtained through anonymous letters.
But the ease of transmission could mean a greater volume of tips, he says. And localeaks, with its extensive list of news organizations, makes it quite clear to the individual reporter or editor that he may not be the only one receiving a tip — increasing the competitive pressure to do something with it.
A lot of this is the stuff of speculation for now. But something real is happening. Terenzio says he's working with some papers, including a large suburban chain, to put digital drop boxes directly on their sites.
The leaks are slow. But they will come.