But How Could Wikileaks Break A Story Without Traditional Newspaper Backing?

from the welcome-to-the-new-world dept

By now you’ve likely seen the rather horrifying Collateral Murder website, put together from the video leaked to Wikileaks (for which, apparently, US intelligence officials investigated some of the Wikileaks folks). While there’s a lot of ongoing back-and-forth over what the video really shows, there’s no doubt that the release of the video is a journalistic scoop.

And yet, we keep being told that if newspapers fail, no one will be left to do investigative journalism?

So what were the traditional journalists doing to get this story? Rob Hyndman points to a story from a year ago about the mad dash of traditional DC reporters to butter up sources. And what great stories have been broken by the White House Press Corp. over the past year?

There’s nothing inherent in newspapers that says that only they can do investigative reporting. As we’ve seen over and over and over and over again, investigative reporting comes in many forms, and it need not come directly from newspapers.

Perhaps the real question is why the traditional press never set up anything like Wikileaks itself. I guess they’re too busy trying to butter up some source in the White House who they hope will feed them a story for political purposes, rather than breaking any real news.

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Comments on “But How Could Wikileaks Break A Story Without Traditional Newspaper Backing?”

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vastrightwing (profile) says:

Kudos WikiLeaks!

Traditional press won’t cover this because it’s not in their interest. This story bites the hand that feeds it, so it will go unpublished with traditional media. Especially now when traditional media wants handouts from the government. Traditional media is entangled with the current power structure, so they will report only things that they think are safe. Doing real reporting and discovery is too dangerous for them. Also, stories have to be cleared and are too risky for journalists, who want to be paid for their work. The only people capable of reporting anything are individuals who are not handcuffed with the golden handcuffs of established media. I say that traditional media will never report this until after an official spin has been articulated and they feel it’s safe to do so. They will never uncover anything of importance unless it’s been cleared. In short, traditional media is unimportant for real news and will never be relevant in our lifetime. From now on, only individual people and small organizations will give us the same thing as WikiLeaks. By the way, Good job WikiLeaks!

Perhaps a more basic question is, who is allowed to report. I’ve read stories where entities want to prevent anyone but them from reporting hot news (aka facts). Since when are facts owned by certain entities? It’s no mystery that if allowed, there would be only one source of information: the official source. It would be locked behind a pay wall, and controlled. All this talk about Newspapers being so important is the same thing: corporations looking for a government handout of some kind.

Information is free. Content is a natural phenomena. Of course the argument from some is, how can I own and control content? The answer is only if the government makes it possible: by force.

I can hear the WikiLeaks issue sounding like this: OMG! The Internet is going to destroy America because it is being used to divulge secret information. We have to control it better, for the children’s sake. And so the argument will go.

Freedom says:


Maybe I’m just making this way too simple, but when the cost of distribution goes to zero and goes from local to worldwide then of course the # of local/paper based media outlets would decrease. Most of these media outlets are nothing more than middle men for wire news and so on. Sure they added a little fluff here and there, but when you get right down to it, they are middle men.

At this point, the core reason for the middle men to exist – local redistribution is no longer valid and their business models aren’t working.


Anonymous Coward says:

I think in some respect we are looking at this the wrong way. Traditional “journalists” are not in the business of reporting news, per se. Their job is to write stories that sell papers. For them it is a popularity contest at heart. They need to come up with the most scandalous sensation possible so they can continue to sell scandalous sensations.

Actual news as we think of it comes secondary and is often incidental to the actual process of selling papers. This is because the financial reward is often placed on the highest numbers sold and not something more subjective like “the most accurate reporting”.

News that will not further the paper’s popularity is discarded, while news that will increase popularity is further sensationalized.

Christopher Smith says:

Re: Re:

I think that many here at Techdirt would agree with you, but the point that’s being made is that the traditional journalists are claiming that their business is reporting news and keeping politicians honest. Because of this crucial role, they say, the rest of us should be required to give them special treatment. Stories like this point up their hypocrisy.

Jesse (profile) says:

Why newspapers do not have setup wiki leaks

Why would they?

To set up something like wiki leaks with all papers together would be nonsense for them, because then everyone would have the same scoop

But each newspaper has its own wiki leaks, since they have all allowed sources to come forward with stories, and the anonymity of these sources is protected as well as they can

griffjon (profile) says:

Re: Why newspapers do not have setup wiki leaks

While I’m hardly a fan of MSM; give credit where credit is due here and read the list of financial supporters to Wikileaks on the bottom of the page, naturally you have ACLU and the EFF representing, but also the LA Times, SF Chronicle, Gannett, the AP, and a few national-level newspaper and MSM associations.

Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press (RCFP)
The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE)
The Associated Press – world wide news agency, based in New York
Citizen Media Law Project – Harvard university
The E.W Scripps Company – newspapers, TV, cable TV etc.
Gannett Co. Inc – the largest publisher of newspapers in the USA, including USA Today
The Hearst Corporation – media conglomerate which publishes the San Francisco Chronicle
The Los Angeles Times
National Newspaper Association (NNA)
Newspaper Association of America (NAA)
The Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA)
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
Public Citizen – founded by Ralph Nader together with the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
Jordan McCorkle, the University of Texas

Anonymous Coward says:

The shabby little secret that “professional journalists” don’t want to get out is that any asshole can do their job, and in fact, most assholes could do it as well or better than they do, all without accumulating tens of thousands of dollars in debt to acquire a worthless degree from a worthless journalist program at a worthless school. Guess I’d be pissed, too.

John King says:

shootings of Iriqui civilians

The reason the news media does not release things like these murders from the air is because they are not on the scene. I was in a long forgotten civil war and I know that when the military kills civilians they all become enemy dead for the body count. If their is use of gunships in an urban area there will be dead civilians. The military is never going to admit they did wrong. They bury their mistakes.

Comboman (profile) says:

Whose reporters died in the video????

While I’m all in favor of citizen journalism, the tone of this article and most of the comments are very misdirected. Wikileaks did not have reporters in Iraq risking (and losing) their lives to gather the news. That was Reuters (you know, the traditional newspaper people who can’t do anything). Without Reuters there wouldn’t even be a story for Wikileaks to break. Show some respect.

Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

Re: Whose reporters died in the video????

I’m sorry; I didn’t realize that the video was shot by a Reuters employee. I don’t recall seeing that anywhere. Also, I don’t recall Reuters breaking this story. A few blurbs about an unsuccessful FOIA request and that’s about it… I also didn’t realize that the deaths and injuries of all of the other people, including two children, were unimportant.

So… Actually, I don’t understand what you’re saying at all. In what was is Reuters responsible for this story? Did they shoot the video, break the encryption, or what? Am I missing something?

Comboman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Whose reporters died in the video????

You did miss something. Did you even read the blurb at the CollateralMurder site? I’ll quote it for you since your obviously too lazy to click the link yourself:

WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff.

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.

No they didn’t shoot the actual video, because they were DEAD!. Reuters was not successful in getting the video released via FOIA, but I’m sure it was their attempt that caused someone with a conscience at DOD to look at the video and leak it to Wikileaks. I’m not saying Wikileaks isn’t providing a valuable service, but to try and say they are doing investigative reporting and Reuters isn’t is highly disingenuous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Whose reporters died in the video????

From the CollateralMurder.com home page:

WikiLeaks wants to ensure that all the leaked information it receives gets the attention it deserves. In this particular case, some of the people killed were journalists that were simply doing their jobs: putting their lives at risk in order to report on war. Iraq is a very dangerous place for journalists: from 2003- 2009, 139 journalists were killed while doing their work.

DNY (profile) says:

Do professional journalists do investigative reporting anymore?

In the past year or so, we’ve had the Wikileaks revelation of atrocities in Iraq and the Giles/O’Keefe investigation of ACORN, but I can’t recall a single investigative piece coming from the staff of a major daily or network news organization in the same time frame.

Obama is right that Fox isn’t a real news organization, but for the wrong reason. If they were a real news organization they wouldn’t necessarily drop their right-wing editorial line (back in the day newspapers were identifiably partisan), but they’d have reporters out hunting for all the facts about Obama’s life between 1961 and his election that he is assiduously hiding. Of course, by that measure, there aren’t any real news organizations.

Anonymous Coward says:

I find it ironic that Wikileaks is all of a sudden cracking videos only after an obsolete GSM encryption standard that everyone still uses just so happens to have been cracked rather recently.


Apparently, $30,000 worth of equipment was necessary to crack it at the time which would suggest that “supercomputer power” was needed to crack it.

Ironically, on a twitter tweet, Wikileaks said they obtained some video (supposedly it was another video, the video on the Afghanistan shootings that killed 97 people) but they needed (I think the words they used were) “supercomputer power” to crack. Apparently they got their supercomputer power.

I suspect, just like the cell phone industry in the U.S. and everyone else in the U.S., the government didn’t bother to go through the trouble of updating their GSM encryption standard to the latest version. Since supercomputer power is needed to crack the very previous release, I suspect that after Wikileaks has learned about this group who has figured out how to crack GSM encryption technology and has learned that supercomputer power is needed to crack it, they figure that there was a lot of information encrypted under this standard that was worth cracking. and so they went out after supercomputer power in order to crack it.

1 + 1 = 2 .

Who do you think helped wikileaks crack this video? Ask yourself a simple question, who is publicly known to have the know how to crack it? The very same group that is known to have cracked it mentioned in the above link (now I’m likely to get them investigated). Either that or Wikileaks found someone else who has cracked it after wikileaks learned from this group that it’s crackable.

Serves the government right for not upgrading to the latest encryption standards when they should have.

Then again, I’m not even sure if GSM is used for videos or if the government even used it in this case, these are all just guesses.

robo cop (profile) says:


What “Wikileaks” has exposed is just the tip of the iceberg. I was in Baghdad three days before we started bombing indiscriminatley. during my last 8 years in Iraq/Kuwait I have witnessed the horror that makes Wikileaks’ killing by the US forces look like a child play. Our sick minded criminal soldiers have on-going competitions about how many Iaqis (insulting called Ali Babas) they have shot the brains off of. CENTCOM has been aware of it since the day one and so is are the US embassies in Iraq and Kuwait. Position taken by the Commanders on the ground is that we could hardly get enough soldiers on the ground and if we start forcing the decipline and holding inquiries of every mistake our soldiers make, we won’t have any soldiers left on the ground. This kind of criminal behavior is widespread and everyone in chain of command knows about it. We, as a group of Americans, Canadians, German, English and other European individuals have interviewed returning soldiers from Iraq to Camp Doha and Camp Arifjan in Kuwiat and they all laugh and take such a pride in killing the “Ali Babas”. Crimes of our criminally insane soldiers will never be tried… you can bet on this. These criminals are hailed as “American patriots”, “heroes” and the rest of the crap. They are nothing but bunch of thugs, hoodlums, criminals and everyone of them including their commanders must be brought to justice and held accountable.

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