Revisiting WikiLeaks and what it means to journalism

A while back (April 7, to be exact) I wrote about a piece in Foreign Policy about WikiLeaks and the future of journalism. At that time I expressed the same concern as the FP author: Is WikiLeaks the future of journalism?

I, and other journalists, are concerned that the use of WikiLeaks material is feeding into a political agenda. And let us be clear, WikiLeaks has a political agenda.

Sadly, one of the best interviews exploring this was done by Stephen Colbert. (I am having problems embedding the video, so just click here to see the interview.)

In addition to the Colbert interview that bastion of liberalism, Mother Jones, has also called into question the journalistic credentials of WikiLeaks.

I worry because so many news organizations are depending on groups such as WikiLeaks rather than going out and being competitive in the field of investigative journalism.

It bothers me because journalism is supposed to be about remaining true to the readers/viewers/listeners rather than a political agenda. WikiLeaks makes no bones about having such an agenda. Assange openly admits he and his team used “hot” words to title the video and that they edited the video before making it public.

As and editor I would like to know what happened before and after the video. I would like to know what was edited out of the video. In other words, I would like to know the context of the shots.

We don’t get that from WikiLeaks. Nor did we get it from many of the news organizations when they ran the video. (Yes, later we got some more information. But shouldn’t we have had that info the first time the video was run?)

It is fair to report what WikiLeaks has but it is beginning to look as if some news groups are willing to let WikiLeaks lead the way in getting material.

I repeat what I said before, I am concerned because the news organization has no way to judge the material. Without an active role in the gathering and editing process, how can news editors really trust the material.

We are seeing more outsourcing of reporting by major news organizations. And I am not talking about using freelancers (like me) to get stories. Groups such as WikiLeaks and Current News have journalists working for them and developing stories. But these are groups with political agendas and no news organization should be beholden to them.

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1 Comment

Filed under Freedom of access, International News Coverage

One response to “Revisiting WikiLeaks and what it means to journalism

  1. bix

    It is not true that Wikileaks did not release the full video. Wikileaks released a short version, a medium version and a long one. Most news outlets didn’t bother looking through the long one (if I remember correctly it was about 45 minutes long). But that is hardly Wikileaks fault… Apparently the “traditional media” want Wikileaks to do their research for them and then cry about it when they do.

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