WikiLeaks’ intent has always been to maximize its impact, but its media strategy has changed significantly since it began in 2007, with the idea that if it posted important documents to its site — come one, come all — journalists would eagerly report the news there. Since then, it has learned the value of an “exclusive” to journalists, creating partnerships with publishers that impose a collective embargo on when the material can be published in return for privileged access to the material.
Brian Stelter and Noam Cohen, New York Times. In WikiLeaks’ Growth, Some Control Is Lost.
Last fall when Wikileaks began releasing US State Department cables it worked closely with the New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Der Spiegel and Le Monde in order to maximize global coverage of information contained within them.
As its relationship with the Times and the Guardian deteriorated, Wikileaks withheld the new Guantanamo documents from them while developing partnerships with other news outlets to coordinate their release. Not to be outdone though, both the Times and the Guardian have gotten copies of their own and the race to scoop the whistleblower is on.
As Harvard’s Yochai Benklar explains, “The future of the networked Fourth Estate will involve a mixture of traditional and online models, cooperating and competing on a global scale in a productive but difficult relationship.”
Today, the Times published a 5,000 word reconstruct on [Deepwater Horizon and the Gulf Oil Spill], some eight months after the fact. In their nut graf, they assert that “this was a disaster with two distinct parts — first a blowout, then the destruction of the Horizon. The second part, which killed 11 people and injured dozens, has escaped intense scrutiny, as if it were an inevitable casualty of the blowout. It was not.”
They go on to assert that their story “based on interviews with 21 Horizon crew members and on sworn testimony and written statements from nearly all of the other 94 people who escaped the rig” along with thousands of documents “obtained by The New York Times describing the rig’s maintenance and operations make it possible to finally piece together the Horizon’s last hours.”
There’s just one problem, of course: Their key assertions that the destruction of the Horizon “has escaped intense scrutiny” and that the final hours are only now possible to piece together are patently false.