Guardian US: #AskSnowden and the NSA Files
Feb. 6, 2014
Team members: Glenn Greenwald - journalist, Janine Gibson - editor-in-chief, Stuart Millar - deputy editor, Amanda Michel - open editor, Ruth Spencer - community editor, editorial projects lead, Katie Rogers - social news editor, Gabriel Dance - interactive editor
About this entry
In a series of stories based on top-secret National Security Agency documents leaked by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, the Guardian revealed the vast scale and scope of intelligence surveillance programs, how technology has enabled the widespread, indiscriminate and routine mass collection and analysis of telephone and internet data, and how those technologies have moved ahead of the law.
Over a period of seven months, the Guardian US brought its vocal, online community closer to the journalism through regular, online conversations -- hosted at theguardian.com and elsewhere, including Twitter, Reddit, and more – with reporters, editors, and even Edward Snowden himself, who gave his first post-publication interview to Guardian readers.
The case for why this entry should win a Shorty
On June 17, 2013, Edward Snowden held a live Q&A with readers at theguardian.com. It was an interview that all the world’s major media organizations had been chasing for more than week, but instead the Guardian US suggested Snowden give the exclusive to the people he was trying to inform. The 29-year-old former NSA contractor and source of the Guardian's NSA files coverage – with the help of Glenn Greenwald – took questions using the hashtag #AskSnowden on why he revealed the NSA's top-secret surveillance of US citizens, the international storm that has ensued, and the uncertain future he faced.
With Glenn Greenwald at the center of a global media maelstrom and many journalists from around the world trying to tell Glenn’s story, we asked his community of loyal readers to weigh in. They knew him long before he was in the national spotlight; they communicated with him by email and sparred with him in the comment threads. Based on feedback from thousands of readers, we constructed an interactive bringing together the views of his readers.
While the stories prompted a global debate and ignited a national conversation about the need to balance security and privacy in the digital age, a parallel debate and conversation was taking place online. We were able to harness that discussion by hosting regular online conversations with Guardian reporters, editors and outside experts. This approach allowed us to capture and distill a complicated series of stories to explain how the individual revelations fit together and convey their significance to our community. Furthermore, the process of reporting material of such sensitivity is something we should be accountable for, to our readers as well as to government.
The #AskSnowden Q&A elicited over 4,000 questions on Twitter and at theguardian.com. It let to nearly 4,000 comments with subsequent Q&A's eliciting hundreds of questions on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and elsewhere. The Guardian’s big reveal of Snowden as the NSA whistleblower sparked the most voracious conversation of 2013. Some called him a traitor, some a hero. Some railed against the United States for surveying its citizens, while others criticized the Guardian for releasing government information. All told, the immediacy, responsiveness and degree of explanatory power granted by the Guardian’s social approach was often hugely helpful in furthering the impact and quality of the journalism throughout the NSA Files series.