Alaska releases more than 24,000 printed pages of Sarah Palin's emails


Officials in the state of Alaska today released about 13,000 of Sarah Palin's emails from the former governor's first 21 months in office. During that period, her fame grew and she became a GOP vice presidential nominee. In the video below, you can see 24,199 pages of those emails boxed up and hand-carted on dollies (note that the boxes show they're printed on "Cougar" brand paper, heh). The process of preparing the documents for release took some two years, involved 55 current and former state employees, and required a legal review that concluded on May 31. Ms. Palin used a Yahoo email account, rather than an official Alaska government email account, presumably to avoid state archiving and recordkeeping requirements.

Washington Post:

Among the 14,482 emails that were sent or received by then-Gov. Sarah Palin (R), Alaska officials released just over 11,000 without altering them. But they also redacted some information from more than 2,300. And they held back 953 entirely.

The content may not all be heavy (we are talking about Sarah Palin here), but the documents are. And unlike Palin, they're not cheap. From the New York Times:

[H]er old e-mails are being released by the pound, not the pixel, in six boxes, a total of about 250 pounds at a printing cost of $725 per set.

Reading these early news accounts, it's not yet clear to me why the state chose to release the emails in printed form, as opposed to scanned images or in some native text-based digital form with full headers and such. Some interesting issues around forensics and privacy to consider there. But releasing these state documents on paper, and charging for them, makes the task all the more onerous for reporters and investigators. Of course, the state could have been even more cruel: selecting a font like, say, Comic Sans. Or Zapf Dingbats.

So why are we seeing them at all? Because Mother Jones, ProPublica, and MSNBC requested them in 2008.

There's a hashtag for Twitter: #palinemails. David Corn at Mother Jones has a good overview of the Sarah Palin email saga here. Amy Davidson's blog post at the New Yorker is here. The Pro Publica guide is here. The New York Times has an interactive archive. And here is the MSNBC database.

What's most interesting to me about this story is the way it resembles reactions to Wikileaks dumps. Take, for instance, the Washington Post's approach: a main site devoted to the big picture here, and a request to readers to help crowdsource. And they've even set up a Twitter feed dedicated to the story here, @PalinEmails, with "micro-updates."

And yes, she really did request that a tanning bed be installed in the governor's office.

(PHOTO: Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R) greets a protester holding a sign reading "Idiot Queen" as she arrives for a clambake at a private residence in Seabrook, New Hampshire June 2, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder)