What the Wikileaks controversy has told me about the information age is that even though we live in a world where any piece of knowledge is accessible, there are still powerful people in this world that are doing horrible things that they want covered up.
Its slogan says it all to me: We open governments. This to me has always been the fundamental function for journalism: the need for the men and women who we intrust our rights and freedoms on to be transparent about what they do with the power we’ve bestowed on them.
I think that Wikileaks follows some guidelines that would be taught in a traditional j-school values such as the need for openness, but clearly has agendas and instead of going through all of the information it gathers (to be fair, which is tediously time consuming) throws it out there without having an editor or a filter.
The Cablegate controversy on the face of it seems like a worthwhile exercise. Getting your hands on classified information that’s worthy of public knowledge is a victory for any reporter. And backroom workings of over 300 embassies worldwide going back as far as the mid 60’s gives depth to the documents.
But when politicians from the left and the right worldwide began to call out the leaking as a threat to worldwide diplomacy, the rhetoric — or hyperbole — started to ratchet up.
While I see the point of the argument — aside from silly statements like G. Gordon Liddy’s hope of adding Julian Assange to the “kill list” — if this were done with more of a journalistic integrity, as opposed to the wild west attitude Wikileaks has, there would be no bluster from politicians affected by this.
In the end I think the point made by The Economist made the most sense.
If secrecy is necessary for national security and effective diplomacy, it is also inevitable that the prerogative of secrecy will be used to hide the misdeeds of the permanent state and its privileged agents.
If the traditional journalist and news organization won’t do this, than rulebreaker will. Let’s just hope the world hasn’t been blown up over this.