Wikileaks, the New Face of Investigative Journalism?

Until recently, Wikileaks.org was a little known website that outed sensitive information about businesses and government.  The site has now achieved prominence by posting a video of a U.S. Army air assault in Baghdad that killed Reuters photographers.

In finding and publishing the video, Wikileaks has accomplished what Reuters, the Freedom of Information Act and an army of lawyers could not.

It is story that I find fascinating (despite the grisly and tragic nature of the events), because it demonstrates the power of new media to uncover facts and shape major media coverage.

It involves social media, technology,and crowdsourcing (when Wikileaks realized what they had but not could not view the encrypted video, they sent a plea for supercomputing time and assistance via Twitter), and a shadowy source.

There's even (ostensibly) PR folks involved in all this.  According to an article in the NY Times yesterday:

Today there is a core group of five full-time volunteers, according to
Daniel Schmitt, a site spokesman, and there are 800 to 1,000 people whom
the group can call on for expertise in areas like encryption,
programming and writing news releases. 

Sounds like the start of a bad joke, doesn't it: "A programmer, encryption specialist and flack walk into a bar…"

Some may quibble (as the Times story did) over whether Wikileaks is about advocacy or journalism.  According to the article:

The site is not shy about its intent to shape media coverage, and Mr.
Assange said he considered himself both a journalist and an advocate;
should he be forced to choose one, he would choose advocate. WikiLeaks
did not merely post the 38-minute video, it used the label “Collateral
Murder” and said it depicted “indiscriminate” and “unprovoked” killing.
(The Pentagon defended the killings and said no disciplinary action was
taken at the time of the incident.)

My question is, Is there really much of a difference these days?


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