Illustration: Chafiq Faiz
Newsrooms today must confront myriad reporting challenges, from government oppression and digital surveillance to reluctant sources and a deluge of misinformation. But many also face significant internal obstacles related to running their organization, from managing editorial flow and measuring online reach to tracking subscribers and protecting critical data, among others.
As a result, GIJN is publishing a new business tools guide focused on helping news outlets solve their administrative needs. The guide was produced thanks to support from the Google News Initiative. It was researched and written by Talya Cooper, edited by Nikolia Apostolou and Reed Richardson, and illustrated by Sentavio, via Freepik.com with design by Chafiq Faiz. It includes useful software and applications – many of which are free – for small newsrooms. Other tools included cover administration, management, communication, file sharing, accounting, SEO, audience engagement, audiovisual, content management, subscriber management, design and data visualization, social media and email marketing, site security, and password management.
As an introduction, we’ve compiled a list of the tools from across the guide that assist newsrooms with their data security and encryption needs.
This topic is particularly important, since both private companies and repressive regimes are targeting the press more than ever. Everything journalists do – from sending emails and text messages to typing in their passwords – may be monitored. It may sound elaborate and time-consuming to many, but choosing the right applications and software is crucial to protecting sources as well as journalists themselves.
ProtonMail encrypts emails in transit and when stored on ProtonMail’s servers. Proton Mail uses Open PGP encryption. Emails are only encrypted when sent between two ProtonMail accounts. However, if you are sending a message externally, you can password protect the message and send the password via other encrypted channels.
Cost: Free individual accounts include 500MB storage.
Languages: 26 languages available.
Messaging and communications
Element is an open source, end-to-end encrypted messaging and collaboration platform.
Cost: Free for individuals, business tiers begin at $2 per month cost for up to five users.
Languages: 25 current translations.
Jitsi is a free and open source, end-to-end encrypted video chatting service. Without creating an account users can start an in-browser video chat of up to 50 participants. It also allows for advance scheduling, screen sharing, shared note-taking using the Etherpad tool, and integrates with Google and Office 365.
Languages: available in 35 languages
Signal an open source end-to-end encrypted messaging service available as an app for mobile and desktop devices. Includes encrypted calls, disappearing messages, groups and files over Signal.
Languages: Messaging available in all languages.
Cloud Storage and File Sharing
OnionShare uses Tor Onion Services to tunnel data directly and securely from the sender’s computer to the recipient.
Sync encrypts files upon upload; the company cannot view the contents of a file. You can use and view files from a web interface, and you can move files to a folder on your computer that will sync automatically to the backup server.
Cost: 5GB for free; Business plans start at $5 per user per month (two-plus users) with 1TB of storage.
Languages: English only; data storage based in Canada, but available worldwide.
1Password garners high ratings for the transparency around its encryption and its willingness to submit to regular third-party reviews. Significantly, 1Password has a service called 1Password For Journalism, which enables teams of journalists to access the app at no cost.
Cost: Currently free for journalists.
Languages: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Chinese.
Dashlane’s features are comparable to 1Password — minus the Travel Mode feature — but many users find its interface easier and more intuitive.
Cost: Free plan with up to 50 passwords with no device sharing available; plans begin at $3.99/month for individuals and $5 per user per month for businesses.
Languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
KeePassXC is a free and open source password manager. KeePassXC is stored locally on a single user’s computer. The simple, offline nature of the tool significantly reduces its convenience, but minimizes the risk associated with transferring data across the web.
Virtual Private Networks
A cardinal rule of VPN (virtual private network) services: do not use a VPN that does not offer paid tiers. Researchers have found that 100% free VPN services to be secretly logging user data and to be laden with malware. Experts also recommend avoiding US-based VPN services, due to the strictures of the USA PATRIOT Act. Sites like CNet, SafetyDetectives, and Wirecutter maintain current recommendations for VPN.
All pricing below current as of June 24, 2021 and is in US dollars, unless otherwise noted, with VAT not included. Language listed is the language in which the tool itself is available. Where the information was readily available, we have noted any limitations on a tool’s geographic availability.
Talya Cooper is an archivist and researcher based in New York. She worked as the archivist of the Edward Snowden archive at The Intercept and as archive manager at StoryCorps. She is the co-author, with Alison Macrina, of “Anonymity,” a guide to anti-surveillance and privacy technology for librarians.