Tuesday, January 10, 2012

'Honest Appalachia' website created as publication outlet for whistleblowers on businesses, officials

Appalachia will soon have its "own version of WikiLeaks," according to the creators of the blog Honest Appalachia, which allows government and corporate whistle blowers to anonymously share documents for public viewing. The website launches today and will be a place where co-founder Jim Tobias said people can share information without fear of retaliation. Initially, the website will focus its efforts on West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Tobias, a 24-year-old University of Pennsylvania graduate, told Vicki Smith of The Associated Press' West Virginia staff that users will download software that makes their computer anonymous. The Honest Appalachia team removes any other identifying data that could make the document traceable. It will only use documents that are "sensitive, exclusive and authentic." Before anything is posted, staff will work with journalists to verify the legitimacy of information before publication. Tobias said the team will target "people who work for regulatory and other government agencies to build awareness about the site."

Tobias said he and lead technical developer Garrett Robinson, 22-year-old Oberlin College graduate, are "trying to fill a hole as the mainstream news industry evolves." They chose to focus on Appalachia because it's a rural area with little media scrutiny because newsrooms have been closed increasing chances of unchecked corruption. (We would add that AP and Kentucky newspapers no longer have correspondents in Eastern Kentucky.)

"We believe our country desperately needs watchdogs at the local, state and regional level," Tobias said. Other members of the team are from Ohio and West Virginia. (Read more)

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