The WikiLeaks Saga: Transparency without Judgment is Gossip, not Journalism

Everyone is talking about the WikiLeaks disclosure of confidential diplomatic cables revealing the oft prickly relationship nations have with each other. That this comes as a shock is almost as shocking as the messages themselves, which, stripped of the Bond/Bourne intrigue and hurt pride, amount to little more than high school gossip and in-fighting among popular cliques.

The fact that these cables exist and reveal, if not confirm, the ugliness of diplomacy, makes them news. What few have mentioned, however, is what the leaked documents are not:

They are not reporting

They are not journalism

They are not investigative

They are not analytical

They are not, by themselves, important

According to WikiLeaks, “publishing improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people.” Um, yes, but not always. Transparency also requires judgment and analysis. Transparency unchecked will get people killed.

WikiLeaks’ site goes on to say that “better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organisations. A healthy, vibrant and inquisitive journalistic media plays a vital role in achieving these goals. We are part of that media.”

Fine, I agree. But from where I’m sitting, WikiLeaks and those who support its brand of “journalism” are neither inquisitive nor vital to global discourse. WikiLeaks is not part of “that media” — it is part of a rogue, opportunistic and reckless media that has little understanding of journalistic principles nor concern for the fallout created by its selfish actions.

You want to be “part of that media?” Great, then grow up and act responsibly. Find the story and tell it with context and conscience. Don’t just put stuff out there and rely on the New York Times to clean up your mess (and thank God they are trying.)

As I’ve said before, I don’t care that newspapers are dying, I care that real journalism is dying with them. WikiLeaks just fired another shot into an open wound.

2 thoughts on “The WikiLeaks Saga: Transparency without Judgment is Gossip, not Journalism

  1. Gary, I have had a real problem with the Worshiping Transparency Flock (WTF).
    They see the source of friction as governments and agents who ought to be operating completely in the open.
    Let’s say we know that Boris Yeltsin has a mistress that he meets on Monday nights, and gets more drunk than usual on Tuesday. That means there are certain kinds of communications that we ought not engage on Tuesdays when he’s hung over.
    According to the WTF crowd, Yeltsin ought to not be a drunk. But the issue isn’t whether he’s hung over on Tuesdays, it’s what we do with that information, and our speculation about the competitive advantage.
    According to Wikileaks supporters, WE should not be allowed to have internal memos about our Yeltsin suspicions, because they aren’t above board.

  2. Gary: The emergence of social media may force us to accept a new kind of journalism that collects and curates information, but leaves analysis and interpretation to the people formally known as the audience.

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