WikiLeaks, the “anonymous” international news-leak publishing site launched in 2006, has caused a stir in the new media, political, and journalism spheres. No, not just a stir. It has started an all-out war, between governments and corporations and so-called “hacktivists” poring for secret information. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange created the site with the intention to publicize the private–the so-called “inside scoop” of governments and large corporations. Assange claims that top-secret information that can affect society at large could and should be viewable on the Web to everyone; therefore, we have WikiLeaks. On top of all that, in an attempt to uncover more top-secret stories, WikiLeaks has collaborated with some of the top names in media, including the New York Times.
But is all this detective work and scavenging considered real journalism? According to Times reporter David Carr, not so much. He writes, “WikiLeaks has been involved in a fruitful collaboration, a new form of hybrid journalism emerging in the space between so-called hacktivists and mainstream media outlets, but the relationship is an unstable one. WikiLeaks may be willing to play ball with newspapers for now, but the organization does not share the same values or objectives.”
While their ultimate goal on paper may be transparency and getting important info. out to the public, WikiLeaks has a hidden objective as indicated by Assange himself: to expose and to defeat. It may not openly say this, but WikiLeaks is all about the Conspiracy with a capital C. If something fishy is going on, those hackers will go through all means–literally, everything–to uncover it. And that’s just their day jobs.
Since it is not an actual established media organization, WikiLeaks does not have the exact same protections granted by the First Amendment or allowed in other countries. However, it does have certain unalienable rights, that including the right to privacy and the right to protection of free speech. And technically, everything that WikiLeaks is posting is true.
At least, we think so. There is the thought going around that the 2007 release of Collateral Murder, which revealed the U.S. government’s authorization of an airstrike in Baghdad that killed at least 15 innocent people, was edited with a political agenda in mind. Still, with the disclosure of that important clip, WikiLeaks got its message across.
“It has became increasingly apparent that WikiLeaks was changing the way information is released and consumed, questions were raised about the value of traditional journalistic approaches,” Carr also writes.
Andrew Rossi’s Page One, a 2011 documentary film about the New York Times and the new media debate, talks about this idea of rigorous reporting in modern journalism. Tracking the successes and failures of the Times, Rossi shows how even a top-line news publication can struggle to stay relevant and profitable. For instance, the Times has published material from WikiLeaks on its site, encouraging more audience interaction along with new Web strategies and social media.
So, is WikiLeaks considered actual journalism? I would say both yes and no. While I understand its purpose and Assange’s rather anarchist-taste for detective work, I still see many problems with it both politically and for the future: for instance, the “anonymity” of sources and just how well one is protected on the site. Regardless, nothing on the Internet can ever be safe, and WikiLeaks has changed the landscape of investigative reporting forever.