Just read a prescient New Yorker blog post on the sudden proliferation of plans for in-house Wikileaks-style operations at major media outlets. Al Jazeera started this trend with its "Transparency Unit," and the New York Times is now said to be developing something similar. It can't be long before others jump on the bandwagon. Author Raffi Khatchadourian (who authored this New Yorker profile of Julian Assange last year) does a nice job of attempting to map the just-emerging implications of this (possible) trend. Says Khatchadourian: "If the WikiLeaks model were to grow beyond WikiLeaks - much in the way social networking outgrew its earliest online incarnations - and develop more fully within the ambit of conventional media, it is likely that it would change in a way that reflects the different sources of authority that a stateless publisher and a conventional news organization each draw upon."
Since the last post about Wikileaks on this blog, the site has drawn the world's attention with its release of nearly 100,000 classified military documents from the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Commentators have lined up on multiple sides, alternatively praising the site for its commitment to open information, condemning its disregard for troop security, or bemoaning the lack of explanatory discourse surrounding the data. Andrew Exum, who served in Afghanistan, criticizes the site's fusion of activism and journalism, while my friend Jeremy Wagstaff thinks that it both shows up the traditional media and points the way toward a fundamental re-imagining of journalism itself.
Think the traditional news business is dying? Consider Japan, says a New York Times article describing the country's vibrant traditional media sector and moribund digital news startups. OhMyNews, a hugely popular South Korean citizen-journalism site that flopped in Japan, is cited as one example of how digital news culture has awkwardly mapped onto a Japanese context. Interestingly, some quoted in the article hypothesize that countries with more deep-seated social and political divisions may take to digital news media more easily than those without.
For those who are in despair over the future of journalism and other forms of information intermediation in the new digital age, it is worth reading what Eric Schmidt, the Chairman and CEO of Google , said to Fareed Zakaria of CNN on November 29, 2009:
"ZAKARIA: When you look forward, do you think -- when you look forward, what are the great moral issues that you think we will face with all this information, all this access? What should we be thinking about in terms of the conflicts, the tradeoffs?