Hello, my name is Shani Hilton, and I'll be guest blogging this week. I blogged for TAPPED last winter, and I've written about black women and abortion, and the Lilith Fair revival for TAP since. I'm currently the associate editor at Campus Progress, and I blog at PostBourgie.
Now to business. I've pretty studiously avoided all things WikiLeaks for a while now, but with yesterday's release of thousands of classified U.S. military documents about the war in Afghanistan, it's become clear that willed ignorance is not an option. Yesterday, I watched this TED interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange:
It's a good introduction to the organization and its founder's ethos. Assange thinks that legitimate secrets are related to personal information, like medical records. But information that's being protected by private and public institutions, Assange says, is often the information that would do the most good if leaked. The vast majority of the audience in the TED video seems to agree, with an overwhelming number raising their hands when asked if Assange is a "hero."
I'm not so sure about that. Aside from having a healthy dose of journalistic skepticism, I find that some of Assange's statements make me wonder about him and his WikiLeaks' heroism. When asked if he had inside information from BP -- something that would be extremely beneficial right now -- he said he did, but that they didn't have the resources to verify and release the information.
This is the problem with the new media versus old media argument. Crowdsourcing news sources, the way WikiLeaks does, is not inherently bad, and it accomplishes what reporters do all the time. But withholding information that could be extremely useful and important because of a lack of vetting resources makes me wonder if those who decry traditional media outlets are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In many ways, Wikileaks is suffering from the same restrictions as any newspaper: staffing and money. To do their job well, they insist on confirming the authenticity of the documents they release. That takes resources, just like excellent reporting in a traditional media outlet does.
-- Shani Hilton