Computerworld reports on plans by Wikileaks to allow “newspapers, human rights organizations, criminal investigators and others to embed an “upload a disclosure to me via Wikileaks” form onto their Web sites”.
“We will take the burden of protecting the source and the legal risks associated with publishing the document,” said Julien Assange, an advisory board member at Wikileaks, in an interview at the Hack In The Box security conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
It’s a first class idea that addresses two major problems with investigative journalism: the risk of legal costs in pursuing investigations; and the need to build relationships between potential whistleblowers and Wikileaks’ technology.
In a nutshell, it’s a networked solution that piggybacks on the trust, relationships and audience built by publishers, NGOs and bloggers, and distributes the technology of Wikileaks so that users aren’t expected to come to them.
One of those early rise days here so apologies if this reasoning doesn’t strike much of a chord since I’m still a little asleep.
British newspapers local and national today have been mostly bought up by big corporate bodies; these by their nature they wish to deliver the maximum profit possible. Contrast this to an artist without such a business mind might deign to forego success to cater to a small audience, or his own passions – it is my belief that the very best in journalism approaches ‘art’.
Amongst those who’d consider themselves quality journalists – the sort who love digging for unique stuff that needs a lot of work – we’ve a pressure for change. Simple reason is that the owners at the top view investigations in the same flavour as 60s-70s Times Insight as being too expensive to detriment of ‘productivity’ and costs. So cheap, easy stories are favoured which leads to an obvious decline in journalism.
Since most papers that pay cash want stuff fast and cheap but not ‘good’ in the qualitative sense the subsection to which I belong has a problem: How do idealistic journos carry on the good investigative work of Insight and others in their heydays? Just how do we get the funds? Say I want to do a blog series on…Mossad infiltration in Britain – an expensive, arduous, ambitious undertaking. Impossible too: Even if my blog is popular and I gain a modest income from other sources it just can’t be done.
Which leads me to the topic; this legal wariness you allude to is quite broadly cast aside in the cheap celeb or scare stories that were once a redtop mainstay but have filtered somewhat into the ‘quality’ press. If you’re willing to insult somebody, sometimes even a vulnerable person in an ambiguous scenario, then you weigh a potential libel payout against the sales gained from your story. The Daily Mail has been notorious for this. The PCC which is supposed to punish this has been notorious for its ineffectuality when it comes to aggrieved persons who have suffered from a rag’s libelliousness.
Insulting or smearing a person doesn’t achieve much, and can actually harm; but it is is quite common year on year. But say we want to investigative a big corruption or atrocity but need to break some laws to get there; even if internal opinion at a newspaper/magazine favours it why should it not be done? I like money, I like getting paid same as most people – but alongside this there’s a vague principle called the ‘greater good’ which I dip my toes into from time to time.
In a nutshell; illegal and cheap are favoured over legal and expensive. Illegal and expensive are virtually non-existent from the British press because it goes against the present-day prevailing mentality of quantity over quality and profit over principle. This is one component of the disease which now wracks journalism so heavily.
It’s funny that a comment I wrote of this flavour on another blog was termed a ‘rant’ – I’m rarely angry in person so it’s amusing that posts which are meant to be wistful, reflective, or analytical get seen as emotional and wild in sentiment.
Sorry for the length of this…I should do a book.
-Pete @ dirtygarnet.com
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