Whether Gawker’s FNC Mole has indeed been found, or not, this whole incident would make an excellent case study on how not to be a network news mole. With that in mind, ICN presents its new how to:
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Rule #1: Don’t go to Gawker. They don’t view you as a resource that requires nurturing and protection. They view you as the commodity equivalent of cannon fodder; something that gets used up and then disposed of.
Rule #2: Don’t go to Gawker. Seriously, after the Brian Williams email incident, if I was a prospective mole looking to toss dirt I would never trust them to make sure I don’t expose myself too much.
Rule #3: Develop a long relationship with whoever you choose to mole out to before you decide to mole out. If you’re going to put yourself at risk, you need to know that you can trust, within obvious reason, the person you’re dealing with. More importantly a long prior relationship will give you a sense of the sort of character the person you’re dealing with has (see Rules 1 and 2).
Rule #4: You think you’re being smart and clever. You aren’t necessarily smart and clever enough.
Rule #5: As a result of Rule #4 you need to be paranoid about what information you’re going to reveal. There are no fingerprints going back to you, right? Are you sure? Really sure? Check again. And then check again.
Rule #6: Whenever possible spin your story so that it looks like its coming out of some area/department other than yours. For example, If you saw something happen on set during a commercial break, instead of telling that to the person you’re leaking, say “the cafeteria was abuzz today regarding…”. It will make the network chase its tail and not you.
Rule #7: Don’t be an idiot and send recent event video. These networks all have their video stored on hard drives with databases. And all that stuff can be logged and checked to see who accessed what and when. Instead of sending video, describe the scene and events that took place to the person you’re leaking to. This way the network will not be sure whether you looked at the video or you heard about this stuff second hand through newsroom chatter.
Rule #8: If the video is just too good to ignore, you’re going to have to sit on it for quite a while before you dare reveal it. And then if you do reveal it you’re going to have to make sure that the reveal can’t be traced back to you. You may have to get radically creative and use someone else’s station to grab the video. Yeah, you’re screwing them over but if you’re being a mole you aren’t happy anways so screw ’em. Even better, screw over someone you hate working with.
Rule #9: Be selective. If you leak every day or multiple times per week you are guaranteeing that the network is going to come after you, if they can find you. And they will make it a priority to try and find you. Instead of being a blab-o-phile, pick and choose your targets to leak and keep them dispersed to no more than once every couple of months. If you keep a lower profile and aren’t very prolific, it will make it harder for you to be spotted.
Rule #10: Make sure the information you reveal is of the common knowledge variety. If there’s just a handful of you who know something, you might as well paint a giant bulls eye on your back, especially if you leak the information in a timely manner. Better to hold off for a couple of weeks until the network can’t be sure who it could have come from because newsrooms…well…they talk a lot. The only exception to this is if it’s highly classified/sensitive information…in which case you can’t leak it without fear of being caught no matter how long you wait. If you just must blab, insist that its off the record and tell the person you’re leaking to go find a few more sources to confirm.
If these rules all sound rather obvious, well…that’s the point. They are obvious. And yet not everyone follows them.