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."
What would in-house drop boxes at major global media outlets look like, and how might they differ from Wikileaks? Khatchadourian implies that a hybrid model might develop, one that retains the authority and rootedness of the traditional media while still pushing boundaries. This seems plausible. But it also begs the question: what role, exactly, would these in-house units play? Daniel Ellsberg didn't need an in-house Wikileaks-style operation at the New York Times to get the Pentagon Papers published. Are major media outlets now convinced that resources are better spent wading through several thousand pages of "leaked" data than on a cadre of investigative reporters working to obtain a single, crucial memo? There is still something to be said, I think, for the traditional media's job of editing and curating: looking not for volume but for value of information. At any rate, we shall all be active observers as this latest twist in the media's identity crisis plays out.
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