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Sept. 9, 2013, 1:47 p.m.

Some of the biggest news of last week was the NYTGuardianProPublica collaboration that broke yet another major story on NSA surveillance. Each publication took their own route when it came to explaining why they decided to publish information from these leaked documents.

On Friday, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Source’s Erin Kissane interviewed Jeff Larson and Scott Klein of ProPublica about their experience with reporting and developing the project. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation about data mining, secure communication (no Skype!), teaching nerds to write and the math behind cryptography.

SK: In a way, it’s like a foreign reporter who can speak the language in the country. They don’t have to rely on anyone else, can delve more deeply, can be much more nimble inside the story. And I have to say, this is not going away. Journalism is going to continue to get big document dumps—and it’s not going to be Snowden, this is going to be historically big and important—but whistleblowers know where to come now, and big unstructured CDs full of text are going to be a regular reality in newsrooms everywhere, and we need to know how to deal with it. And some of that is software like Intella, and some of that is having developers in the newsroom who can do something with big unstructured text. This is a huge opportunity.

JL: I would say that as great as Intella or some of the other software out there is, it’s still not perfect. It’s still very difficult to use and it still takes a painstakingly large amount of time to solve that. I know that folks within the community are working on solving it in a way that not just nerds can use, but that normal reporters can just boot up and just do. Especially for the things that we would have used it for—like the Syria stuff and [the NSA] stuff. Open source stuff that already exists out there, we couldn’t use because you can’t put it on another server, you can’t put it anywhere, you have to have it in a very secure place, airgapped. So that’s something that we need to solve.

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