[E]mergencies such as wars and earthquakes demonstrate a simple and permanent fact of media life: that the Net is the new TV and the new radio, because it has subsumed both. It would be best for both TV and radio to normalize to the Net and quit protecting their old distribution systems.
Canada’s CBC asks whether WikiLeaks is journalism, quotes one source who says, Yay (“The release of the files represents the triumph of investigative journalism.”) and another who says, Nay (“He’s not a journalist. He’s not a whistleblower. He is a political actor. He has a political agenda.”).
What does WikiLeaks signify for journalism and civil society? Here’s some of what we’ve read this week.
1. Missing the Point of WikiLeaks — The Economist
With or without WikiLeaks, the technology exists to allow whistleblowers to leak data and documents while maintaining anonymity. With or without WikiLeaks, the personel, technical know-how, and ideological will exists to enable anonymous leaking and to make this information available to the public. Jailing Thomas Edison in 1890 would not have darkened the night.
1. WikiLeaks Reveals More than Government Secrets — Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com
On CNN last night, Wolf Blitzer was beside himself with rage over the fact that the U.S. Government had failed to keep all these things secret from him… Then — like the Good Journalist he is — Blitzer demanded assurances that the Government has taken the necessary steps to prevent him, the media generally and the citizenry from finding out any more secrets.
3. Wikileaks hounded? — Reporters Without Borders
This is the first time we have seen an attempt at the international community level to censor a website dedicated to the principle of transparency. We are shocked to find countries such as France and the United States suddenly bringing their policies on freedom of expression into line with those of China. We point out that in France and the United States, it is up to the courts, not politicians, to decide whether or not a website should be closed.
4. Why I love WikiLeaks — Jack Schafer, Slate.com
Oh, sure, [Julian Assange’s] a pompous egomaniac sporting a series of bad haircuts and grandiose tendencies. And he often acts without completely thinking through every repercussion of his actions. But if you want to dismiss him just because he’s a seething jerk, there are about 2,000 journalists I’d like you to meet.
5. What the Attacks on WikiLeaks Tell Us — John Naughton, Memex 1.1
The great American editor Oz Elliott once lectured graduates at the Columbia School of Journalism on their sacred duty to democracy as the unofficial legislators of mankind. He asked me what I thought of it. I said it was no good to me: I was trained as a reptile lurking in the gutter whose sole job was to “get the bloody story”.
Yet journalism’s stock-in-trade is disclosure. As we have seen this week with WikiLeaks, power loathes truth revealed.
6. The War on WikiLeaks — Joshua Norman, CBS News
Since the first mentions of a leak of potentially embarrassing U.S. diplomatic cables, a quiet war has blossomed between those who claim they support openness and free speech and those who claim they are protecting lives, international cooperation and the rights of the Swedish court system.
On Twitter, every journalist is a press critic. This may sound like a good thing: Journalism, more than most institutions, would seem to benefit from self-scrutiny. But, trust me, it isn’t. Twitter opens a window into journalists’ minds and, often times, the view ain’t pretty.
On Nov. 4, Anderson Cooper did the country a favor. He expertly deconstructed on his CNN show the bogus rumor that President Obama’s trip to Asia would cost $200 million a day. This was an important “story.” It underscored just how far ahead of his time Mark Twain was when he said a century before the Internet, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” But it also showed that there is an antidote to malicious journalism — and that’s good journalism.