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Blogger raises donations for breaking Winz story

Last updated 12:17 16/10/2012

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Blogger Keith Ng, who exposed a major security flaw at Work and Income kiosks, has raised close to $5000 through public donations for his work.

Ng reported he was "easily" able to access thousands of files, including sensitive case notes and names of children in care, on the agency's servers from the computers in a Wellington WINZ office.

The Ministry of Social Development shut down the kiosk on Sunday night and launched an investigation into the security flaw.

On a page set up to raise money for his work, Ng said he spent "several days" camped out at WINZ offices around Wellington to develop the story.

"Then another several days going through thousands of documents to determine the scope of the breach."

Ng then asked people who liked the story to make a donation. His target of $1500 has been surpassed, with donations at $4969.50 around midday.

"I would like to get paid for doing journalism," he said.

It was the second time Ng has asked for donations for breaking a story.

He didn't approach mainstream media with the story because they pay poorly, he said. "Seriously, you think Fairfax will pay $5000 for a story?"

Bernard Hickey, the founder of the soon-to-be launched journalism.org.nz, a website for "public interest journalism" to be funded by the public, made a $50 contribution to Ng on givealittle.com.

Hickey, who is also an editor at financial website interest.co.nz, said he donated because he supported independent investigative journalism.

"Unfortunately as the pressure goes on traditional media, and the pressure is on to reduce costs and fill space ... this sort of detailed investigative journalism won't get done," he said.

"I'm not sure it's the ideal, final solution for supporting journalism long-term, but it's a nice way to try and find a way to support this sort of journalism."

Hickey said ProPublica and his new website were examples of outlets asking members of the public to support what people were doing in various ways.

Media commentator Jim Tully also supported Ng's donations page, saying anyone can do investigative journalism and publish it.

"Once upon a time your income was what you could gain from whoever was willing to publish what you had.
"But these days you are in a situation where you can go to the public and say 'hey, here is what I've done. Are you prepared to pay, so I can continue to do this kind of thing?'" he said.

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Newspaper Publishers Association chief executive Tim Pankhurst said Ng did a public service, "but he had the option to go and sell that story to a news outlet".

"For the public to be funding what he has done, that's seems a bit mercenary to me," he said.

- Stuff

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