Securing the Newsroom

A free press is a core tenet of democracy, and yet, there are constant attacks on the press even in countries that claim to be democratic. News does not need to be convenient for it to be true and important. And regardless of our opinions, we should be doing anything we can to protect bloggers, journalists, newsrooms, and anyone trying to speak the truth and send a global message.

In its first enterprise offering, Graphite is proud to announce Graphite for Journalism. Graphite, since its inception early this year, has been a free and open source product for anyone interested in reclaiming their data. A sort of productivity suite alternative to centralized offerings by Google and Microsoft. But it has always been a goal to help solve larger problems. To create features and product extensions that have far more power. And today, those features take their first big step forward. This is the first decentralized application feature-set that has real utility in the world.

Quick demo of some of the Graphite for Journalism features.

Graphite for Journalism is more than just content creation, it’s a workflow management system. It’s an access-control system. It’s a collaboration system. And it’s an integration engine that can power any of the other software your publication or newsroom uses. With encryption on by default without any special configuration, Graphite for Journalism provides a cleaner, more natural approach to communicating with sources, editors, and other writers. All without compromising on security and privacy.

Once a user is added to the main publication’s or newsroom’s team, that user can be assigned permissions and access. The difference here from what a centralized application might offer is that all user data—from the main administrative account down to the last journalist or editor added—is owned by the individual user. Graphite doesn’t store any of that data on a database. Graphite never has access to that data but can still enforce your rules and permissions. This is largely accomplished thanks to the new .graphite namespace.

You can read more about the .graphite namespace at the link above, but the short version of its power is that it allows for traditional access policies and controls to be set while also allowing both broad newsroom ownership of content and individual journalist ownership of content.

Imagine a newsroom that wants the convenience they’ve come to expect from cloud providers but needs—desperately in some cases—security and privacy as the default solution. Decentralization is the solution that’s touted, but until now, that meant slow processing speed, waiting for transactions to confirm on the blockchain ledger before that data was usable. That is the flaw that is holding back decentralized applications, especially in the newsroom. Blockstack, the underlying software powering Graphite, solves this.

The hypothetical newsroom above can rest assured that any user registered owns that identity and controls how much identifiable information to provide. This is managed via transactions written to the bitcoin blockchain. But, once that identity is established and owned by the user that created it, data is then stored on the cloud storage provider of the user’s choosing. In some cases, this might actually mean each newsroom user chooses the newsroom’s managed cloud environment for storing data. That’s perfectly fine. Graphite doesn’t care where you store your data. Graphite only cares that you are the only ones able to access that data.

Users own their encryption keys, data is encrypted before it ever leaves the user’s computer, and it becomes inaccessible should any cloud storage provider choose to snoop on that data.

The above might be the most important part of the entire feature-set. Encryption in the newsroom setting has become increasingly important. Edward Snowden’s cloak and dagger game to release information to the media is actually a simple example. The real complexity that encryption can help solve comes in making sure reporters can do their jobs while protecting themselves and their sources.

Journalism is, perhaps, more dangerous now than it’s ever been. Protecting sources, protecting correspondents, and avoiding censorship now top the checklist of things any freelancer or newsroom must ensure before publishing a story. Thankfully, there have been some means for mitigating the dangerous for a while now—PGP encryption and secure messaging apps, for example. But it’s not enough.

Yaffa Frederick and Anna Cohen published a stirring memorial for journalists killed for doing their jobs in the last 15 years, but what may be even more sad than the memorial is that the memorial is not all-inclusive. In the last 15 years, there have 1,035 journalists or media members killed. 2017 was the least deadly year for journalists in 14 years…and 65 people were still killed.

These numbers do not include the sources and victims that provide information for and make up the stories these journalists are covering. That number is surely too high to imagine.

While there is no single solution to make journalism completely safe, there are new ways to help mitigate the danger. With its official release on Monday, May 28th at the Oslo Freedom Forum, Graphite For Journalism provides the tools that would otherwise have to be sourced piecemeal by journalists, newsrooms, victims, and sources. Security previously meant using Signal or something similar for communication (this is solved with Graphite with the built-in Stealthy chat app), asking people to use complex PGP encryption methods just to share information (this is solved by the default, client-side elliptic curve encryption scheme built into Graphite), and storing data locally to ensure there could be no snooping (client-side encryption and user-owner encryption keys in Graphite solves this).

Here’s a quick rundown of the features of Graphite For Journalism:

  • Encryption by default
  • Configurable permissions for the entire newsroom
  • No single source of failure (decentralization)
  • Integrations with thousands of other systems
  • Document editing
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Workflow management
  • In-line edits and comments
  • Data connection with Graphite Sheets
  • One-click publishing
  • Fully customized publication site available
  • White-label admin account available
  • And so much more

Graphite For Journalism works for the largest journalism institutions in the world or for the smallest mom-and-pop publications. If you’re a blogger, journalist, an editor, or the manager of a newsroom, we’d love to chat. Learn more about Graphite, get pricing, and schedule a live demo—all available here.