As you’ve undoubtedly heard, the talk of the journalism world this past week has been WikiLeaks’ release of tens of thousands of classified documents relating to the Afghan war. Some have heralded the release as the next nail in the coffin of major newspapers. But the reality is more complicated than that, and more optimistic as far as newspapers are concerned. After all, WikiLeaks brought the New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian in on their scoop for a reason.
Neon Tommy editor-in-chief Callie Schweitzer spoke with media critic and NYU professor Jay Rosen about the leak’s significance and about how print news and online newsbreakers like WikiLeaks are learning to work together, rather than compete for alpha dog status.
Part of the reason I think they went for these newspapers is because they’d made a discovery about this profession. Even if a great story was lying there in a published cache of documents, journalists won’t pluck it, produce it and run it because it’s already public. Part of what [WikiLeaks] were doing was learning from that.
The other part was in order to sift through 100,000+ documents and reports and extract what’s important and make news out of it, you actually need a lot of knowledge. There’s no reason to believe that knowledge lies within WikiLeaks, which is a small organization.
Another reason was it probably gets more attention this way because instead of [the mainstream media] choosing to ignore it as they might if it wasn’t their story, you have three of the biggest news organizations in the world trumpeting their own coverage because it’s in some ways theirs.