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Is Wikileaks the Future of Journalism?


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Presentation to Masters students at Xavier Institute of Communication, Mumbai

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Is Wikileaks the Future of Journalism?

  1. 1. Is WikiLeaks the future of journalism?<br />George Brock<br />Professor and Head of Journalism<br />City University London<br />XIC, Mumbai, March 2011<br />City University London<br />1<br />
  2. 2. We can use ideas from Tuesday<br />Recap:<br />Verification<br />Sense-making<br />Eye-witness<br />Investigation<br />Can’t be done by algorithms<br />May even require training<br />City University London<br />2<br />
  3. 3. The three phases of Wikileaks<br />Phase one: hackers. <br />“brilliant, opinionated, a monocle and a Persian cat away from looking like a Bond villain.” (Clay Shirky)<br /><ul><li>Assange compared to characters from Batman to Bakunin to “Ned Kelly of the internet”</li></ul>City University London<br />3<br />
  4. 4. Phase Two: stateless, uncrackable platform<br />Kenya, Julius Baer, Guantanamo handbooks, Scientology, Kosovo<br />City University London<br />4<br />
  5. 5. Phase Three, 2010: the big time<br />“Collateral Murder”<br />Afghan warlogs<br />City University London<br />5<br />
  6. 6. …and more<br />Iraq warlogs<br />US diplomatic cables<br />City University London<br />6<br />
  7. 7. And this week, in full, India…<br />City University London<br />7<br />
  8. 8. The effects<br />Julian Assange, superstar<br />Original team splits<br />New leaking platform starts<br />? Tunisia<br />Middle East<br />Wars continue<br />Effects not predictable<br />Arrest/trial of Bradley Manning<br />City University London<br />8<br />
  9. 9. Disappointment<br />Julian Assange<br />“I’m off to end a war”<br />City University London<br />9<br />Daniel Domscheit-Berg<br /><ul><li>“If he’s succeded, it’s news to me... We had expected the documents to change peoples thinking about the war.... One problem was the sheer volume of the data”</li></li></ul><li>Is it journalism?<br />Does it pass Brock’s tests? (verification,sense-making, eye-witness, investigation)<br />Does it change how governments hold information?<br />Does it change the information balance between citizen and government?<br />Does it matter whether or not it’s journalism?<br />City University London<br />10<br />
  10. 10. What the mainstream media did<br />Made sense of chaos<br />Minimised harm<br />Projected<br />Adapted to the data dump<br />City University London<br />11<br />
  11. 11. Are secrets right?<br />Julian Assange’s original view:<br />(Journalists’) “original sin” is to enjoy the imbalance of power. Why does someone want to read what a journalist has written? “They’re ignorant and you’re not. You know more.”<br />Journalists treat readers as parents treat children. “You can’t lie, but the opportunity to distort is large and prevalent”. The reader can’t see the whole picture so WikiLeaks has to fill the gap. Once “primary source material” is up on the web, the “lying opportunities” shrink.<br />City University London<br />12<br />
  12. 12. Privacy and transparency<br />People need privacy and are entitled to it <br />But how much?<br />Governments need secrecy<br />Likewise... How much should they be allowed?<br />Does anyone own information?<br />Democracy is a series of managed tensions<br />City University London<br />13<br />
  13. 13. “National security”: US version<br />The balance was asserted in the Pentagon papers case<br /> by the late Justice Potter Stewartof the US supreme court. He was su<br />He was sure that the Pentagon papers` publication was <br />not in the national interest, he said, but he could not find that it would “surely result in direct, immediate and irreparable harm to our Nation or its people”. <br />Stewart’s tough test still governs the tense collaboration and competition between the American government and press<br />City University London<br />14<br />
  14. 14. Is it journalism?<br />Your view of its value will depend on you view of society<br />In an open society this will not be fixed<br />Events like WikiLeaks may change the balance of information power. <br />“Assange has claimed, when the history of statecraft of the era is written, that it will be divided into pre-and post-WikiLeaks periods. This claim is grandiose and premature; it is not, however, obviously wrong.”<br />A source and a platform<br />City University London<br />15<br />
  15. 15. WikiLeaks: unexpected effects<br />Nobody died<br />Great PR for the State Department<br />Opportunities for security firms<br />Big bonus for historians<br />No one expected an effect in the Middle East<br />New technologies and their disclosures don’t bring “general and perpetual peace on earth”(the president of GEC’s hope for radio in 1921)<br />City University London<br />16<br />
  16. 16. Further reading<br />On Delicious<br />Georgebrock51 (password: oliver85)<br />Books:<br />WikiLeaks: The Inside Story of Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy (Guardian Books)<br />Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange(Daniel Domscheit-Berg)<br />City University London<br />17<br />
  17. 17.<br />@georgeprof<br /><br />City University London<br />18<br />