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Shhhhh! A Nieman conference on secrecy in journalism

You could argue that journalism is defined by its relationship with secrets. Not just Deep Throat meet-me-in-the-parking-garage secrets: the everyday secrets, the leaker whose identity gets protected, the “you didn’t hear this from me” tip after the meeting, the nugget of information someone wants protected and a reporter wants splashed above the fold. At its best, journalism takes facts known only to a few and shares them with the world; along the path to exposing those secrets, though, there are lots of other collateral secrets created, the sawdust of reporting.

But secrets don’t get kept in quite the same way in an Internet age. If that wasn’t clear before WikiLeaks told us all about Qadhafi’s buxom Ukrainian nurse, it’s clear now; Julian Assange has brought a Bond-like immediacy to the questions.

So I’m very happy to say that the Nieman Foundation is, next week, holding a special one-day conference on the subject of secrecy in journalism. It’ll be next Thursday, Dec. 16, here at Lippmann House in Cambridge. And there’s still room if you’d like to attend — RSVPs required.

There’s lots of good stuff on the schedule, but among the highlights I’ll be most looking forward to are:

— New York Times editor Bill Keller talking about his paper’s experience with WikiLeaks and policies on secrecy and national security

— Washington Post veteran reporter Walter Pincus on a panel on the new role of gatekeepers in an age of Internet-enabled transparency

— The Times’ Aron Pilhofer, Sunlight’s Ellen Miller, and others discussing the new possibilities of data to make transparency more accessible

You can see the full list of speakers — which also includes AP’s Kathleen Carroll, Knight News Challenge winner Teru Kuwayama, and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting’s Maggie Mulvihillhere.

If you can’t make it to Cambridge, we’ll have a full report on the conference here at the Lab shortly afterward, including summaries of the speakers and video. On the day of, watch the hashtag #niemanleaks for the ongoing conversation.

Photo by Monika Bargmann used under a Creative Commons license.

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