NY Times and Washington Post enlist readers to sift through Palin emails, as ‘Palinistas’ are asked to ‘go undercover’

Dylan Stableford
The Cutline

This isn't going to help thaw the ice between Sarah Palin and the mainstream media anytime soon.

As the state of Alaska prepares to release 24,199 pages of Sarah Palin's emails from her first two years as governor--the result of a three-year-old request by Mother Jones and other news outlets--later today, the New York Times and Washington Post are enlisting their readers to help sift through them. The emails are being released in hard copy.

As several Times reporters are now posted in Juneau to review the emails, the Times—which will begin posting them online at noon Friday—is also "asking readers to help us identify interesting and newsworthy emails, people and events that we may want to highlight."

Users are asked to fill out an online form in which they "describe the nature of the email, and provide a name and e-mail address so we'll know who should get the credit."

The Post had planned to limit its Palin email crowdsourcing to 100 online readers who would "work collaboratively in small teams," but following a "strong response," editors wth the D.C. broadsheet say they have since "reconsidered our approach and now would like to invite comments and annotations from any interested readers."

A spokeswoman for the paper told The Cutline that "small team" plan has been abandoned and "are now inviting everyone to send us their comments."

But the Post's initial plan might have been better.

An online group of Palin supporters—Conservatives4Palin.com—is asking "Palinistas" to infiltrate the Times and Post projects by volunteering their help.

A note on the site reads: "If you've always wanted to be a double agent, or if you would just like to bring a little bit of fairness and balance to WaPo's witch hunt fishing expedition, just follow the links."

"There will be nothing in these emails for anyone to fear," a contributor, Stacy Drake, wrote. "However, that will not stop unscrupulous individuals from spinning them out of context in an effort to hurt the governor. She needs you guys to be the eyes looking over these, and not people who are determined to destroy her. Please get involved if you can."

Mother Jones, MSNBC and ProPublica are partnering to produce a free online database of the Palin emails.

The Associated Press plans to put the files on what's known as a File Transfer Protocol site, but will not make the site available to the public.

"To protect against any potential leak of this information," the AP wrote in a memo to editors, "we are sharing the username and password only by email and through customer service."

In explaining the arrangement, Mike Oreskes, the AP's senior managing editor of U.S. news, wrote: "Obviously the governing background of a vice presidential nominee — and a possible 2012 presidential contender — is of vital public interest."

(Photo of Palin, June 2, 2011: AP/Jim Cole)