Seeking to Report through a Journalist’s eyes
For years, WikiLeaks has been publishing massive troves of documents online – usually taken without authorization from powerful institutions and then given to the group to publish – while news outlets report on their relevant content. In some instances, these news outlets work in direct partnership with WikiLeaks – as the New York Times and the Guardian, among others, did when jointly publishing the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and U.S. diplomatic cables – while other times media outlets simply review the archives published by WikiLeaks and then report on what they deem newsworthy.
WikiLeaks has always been somewhat controversial but the reaction has greatly intensified this year because many of their most significant leaks have had an impact on the U.S. presidential election and, in particular, have focused on Democrats. Here is a reasonable sidebar observation: “In particular, have focused on Democrats.”
Therefore, we believe it is reasonable to suggest the decision focus on Democrats may be in the fact that so much more relevant information as well as who is being covered is a real consequence. If in fact, WikiLeaks is a creditable informative source, then their proof is indeed in the spotlight and cannot be ignored by the mainstream media.
As a result, Republicans who long vilified them as a grave national security threat have become their biggest fans, while Democrats who cheered them for their mass leaks about Bush-era war crimes now scorn them as an evil espionage tool of the Kremlin. Again this calls for some speculation, however, for Democrats and Republicans to have such dramatic changes in their attitudes towards WiliLeaks, something out of the norm is happening — specifically, let’s see: mention of espionage tools from the Kremlin, as well as Trump’s perception of Edward Snowden.
The group’s recent publication of the emails of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta has been particularly controversial because it comes less than a month before the election; it included all sorts of private and purely personal exchanges along with substantive, newsworthy material; and it was obtained through actions that were likely criminal (hacking).
Compounding the intensity of the debate is the now-standard Democratic campaign tactic of reflexively accusing their adversaries of being a tool or agent of Moscow. Claims such as these could also be construed as libel if in writing and of course, slander when mentioned by speech.
As a result, it’s worth reviewing a few crucial principles and facts about the journalistic process. It’s vital to emphasize that there are two entirely independent questions presented by all this: (1) were the hackers who took Podesta’s emails and WikiLeaks which published them all without curating them for relevance and harm, justified in doing so?; and (2) once those emails were taken by the hackers and published in full by WikiLeaks, what is the obligation of journalists with regard to reporting on them?
When it comes to the question of whether and how the Podesta email archive should be reported, there are, in my view, five principles that ought to guide the decision-making process:
- A source’s motives are irrelevant in deciding whether to publish. Once the journalist has confidence in the authenticity of the material, the only relevant question is whether the public good from publishing outweighs any harm.
- Journalists constantly publish material that is stolen or illegally obtained. Others have claimed that journalists should not report on the Podesta archive because the materials were obtained through hacking, a crime; a related argument is that by reporting on material from this archive, journalists are rewarding acts of theft and/or encouraging future similar acts of hacking.Please be advised that this is mere speculation, or fodder if you will; there is still no proof of hacking.
- The more public power someone has, the less privacy they are entitled to claim. This is not some bizarre, exotic claim – rather than what it is: the fundamental principle of journalism as well the basis of numerous laws. Of course, it’s the case that the more power someone has, the less privacy they have, and every media outlet, literally every day, operates on that principle, as do multiple sectors of law.
- Whether something is “shocking” or “earth-shattering” is an irrelevant standard. They appear to believe it’s interesting that devoted supporters of Hillary Clinton have decided that none of these documents reflect poorly on her in any significant way. According to Glenn Greenwald, journalism is about shining a light on what the most powerful factions do in the dark, about helping people understand how they operate.
- All journalists are arbiters of privacy and gatekeepers of information. Literally, every act of journalism entails this process. A core purpose of the First Amendment’s free press guarantee was to add an additional safeguard against excess government secrecy by ensuring that others beyond government officials made decisions about what the public knows.
This article by Glenn Greenwald with me assisting primarily in italics is an extremely important piece of information and hopefully knowledge. The notion in #5’s of why journalism enjoys as well as assumes the safeguards in reporting is supported by the Founding Fathers own words. For the entire story please click on this link, right here.