When readers have juicy scoops, how do they reach out to your publication? If your tipsters are nervous to share private information via telephone or email, then a secure tip page may be the solution.
Most tipsters, or informants, aren’t sending envelopes without return addresses anymore, and they’re not hanging out in dark parking garages, either. When people have news to leak, and they’re afraid of reprisal for spilling that information, they’re much more likely to want to share via private digital channels.
WhatsApp, Signal, and SecureDrop are three popular tools for publishers to use when connecting with anonymous sources. Signal and WhatsApp are encrypted messaging apps. SecureDrop is an anonymous file sharing system for desktop computers that was created for newsrooms by the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
Additionally, most major news publications now have standalone tip pages on their websites where readers can privately submit information or upload documents.
The goal in adding a tip page to your website should be to give readers a way to easily share news and other information. Local news publishers, city and regional magazines, and even niche publications can all benefit from giving readers a way to privately share information that could lead to important stories.
What Should Publishers Include on a Tip Page?
Most people think of tip pages as basic forms where website visitors can enter contact information and a brief message. While these types of forms can be useful to include on a tip page, publishers should also be adding information about how to connect with reporters through private messaging apps and file uploading services.
Let’s take a look at how major newspaper publishers have designed their tip pages:
The Wall Street Journal tip page includes a description of all the ways that sources can privately reach out to the publication’s reporters, including a traditional mailing address and information about how to use tools like Signal and SecureDrop.
The New York Times tip page has a large heading that says, “Got a confidential news tip?” Underneath that heading, the Times shares multiple ways to get in touch with its reporters and privately provide materials to the newsroom. The Times’ tip page includes instructions on how to contact the publication via WhatsApp, Signal, email, postal mail, and SecureDrop.
The Washington Post tip page also includes instructions on how to contact its reporters via WhatsApp, Signal, SecureDrop, postal mail, and encrypted email. On the tip page, the publisher has posted detailed information about how to maximize your data security, with the important disclaimer that, “No system is 100% secure.”
Should Tip Pages Be Encrypted?
Sources are more likely to share information when they have the assumption of privacy, but not every local news outlet requires the same level of privacy when communicating with potential sources.
As a general rule of thumb, publishers should always maximize their data security. However, local news outlets will probably get few news tips coming in via encrypted email or SecureDrop. Most local readers simply want a place to share information about upcoming events and news items. For these purposes, a basic website form will do.
To give your readers a more secure way to share information, consider signing up for a WhatsApp account. WhatsApp is a free messaging app with end-to-end encryption, which means smaller publishers can use to service to communicate privately with anonymous sources without incurring additional technology expenses.
While many publishers use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to broadcast their content and communicate with readers, these are not secure platforms and they should not generally be used to communicate with anonymous sources. Very rarely would a publisher want to include links to its social media handles on a tip page.
Does your publication communicate securely with anonymous news sources? To learn more about the best practices for collecting news tips, and to add a tip page to your WordPress website, reach out to our web development team here at Web Publisher PRO.