Wikileaks and Journalists: Walking the fine line of accuracy

Posted: March 14, 2011 by Joanne Goodall in #8 Wikileaks, Uncategorized

Wikileaks has changed the way in which journalists and the public receive information from their governments. Before Wikileaks, journalists relied heavily on their own research, archive material, research databases, interviews, and months upon months of work and story development- sometimes years. However, Wikileaks was able to compete and completely squash the media competition towards information and was able to release more classified, top secret information (mainly government documents) to the public on their website than all media sources combined. However, can journalists, the public, and our governments be able to handle this amount of information? Is Wikileaks a valuable piece in the puzzle or is it the Jenga piece that makes our way of knowing the world collapse?

The Internet has changed the speed of information getting out into the world much faster. Before the Internet, we had newspapers, then radio, and then television which marked a revolution in itself for live pictures corresponding with the news. Remember Vietnam? The US government blamed the media, especially television, for its lack of support and morale towards the war and for its complete failure. In a way, they are right; it was the images the public had seen on the television that made them realize what a sham of a war it really was and created uproar.

Wikileaks is now the uproar. In just a matter of days, if not hours, the activists behind Wikileaks were able to upload thousands of pages of classified, government documents on their website for the whole world to see. In a matter of seconds, the public can type in the URL address, click send, and be sent to the pages to scan and to read for themselves. Before, when it took days for journalists to sift through documents and archive material, the public couldn’t be notified until the media knew what was going themselves. It was a co-relation in some way. But now- Wikileaks was able to jump the gun and the public knew more information, greed, and corporation in the government than the media.

However, this will cause problems in the end. Without knowing what is true and what isn’t, how will the public be able to verify its relativity or its bias or what to take at face value? It is still the role of a journalist to sift through the information, point to the ones that are true, piece the puzzle pieces together which Wikileaks provides, and come up with the story. Though the Internet has changed how we find our research and story ideas, it hasn’t changed the fundamental definitions of a journalist: to be a story teller and a truth seeker. With Wikileaks, the public should allow journalists to do their job as a government watchdog, to sift the top secret documents and then relay the information back to the public. I don’t believe this information should be made public in the form that it is, but should be sent strictly to news organizations first for its verification.

Wikileaks also started a new controversy about privacy on the Internet. Should top secret, classified government and military documents be allowed on the Internet for the whole world to see? I don’t think so. It’s too scary and risky- especially giving away the locations of troops in Afghanistan/Iraq and their war plans/tactics. However, the public has the right to know if their government is corrupt, stealing, or sleazy. It’s not the public’s job to assume this information is all true but the journalist’s job to tell them and SHOW them that it is/isn’t.

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