Journalism

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
journalism, shield law

Companies:
wikileaks



Shameful News Industry Willing To Sacrifice Wikileaks To Get Shield Law

from the bad-precedent dept

A few weeks ago, we noted, with some disappointment, that the politicians who had been pushing for a much needed federal shield law for journalism, Senators Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein, were taking the politically expedient route of adding a specific amendment designed to keep Wikileaks out of the bill's protections. Apparently, a bunch of newspaper folks have stepped forward to support this move. Douglas Lee, at The First Amendment Center has an opinion piece calling those people out for sacrificing their overall principles just to get the shield law approved. The whole thing is a great read, but a few key snippets:
It doesn't seem all that long ago that representatives of the newspaper industry would have recoiled from working with Congress to deny legal protection to anyone who leaked confidential or classified documents. Today, however, they seem happy to be doing so.
Lee then goes on to quote various industry reps distancing themselves from Wikileaks and putting it down as "not journalism." He also quotes them admitting that they feel they have to throw Wikileaks under the bus, or the law won't get passed. He then calls them out on the impact of that decision, hinting at the fact that at least some of this might be due to traditional journalists simply not liking new upstarts that are changing the game -- like Wikileaks.
As comforting as it might be to "real" journalists to incorporate editorial oversight into a shield law and to use it to distinguish further between the "us" who are entitled to the law's protections and the "them" who are not, at least two dangers exist in that approach.

First, does anyone -- including the most mainstream of traditional journalists -- really think it a good idea that Congress and judges define, analyze and evaluate what is appropriate "editorial oversight"? For decades, news organizations have struggled to resist those efforts in libel cases and, so far, those struggles have succeeded. If those same organizations now invite legislators and judges into their newsrooms to see how worthy their reporters are of protection under a shield law, they shouldn't be surprised if the legislators and judges decide to stay.

Second, is the free flow of information really served if the act's protections are denied to those who don't have or practice editorial oversight? As Schumer acknowledged in his statement, the act already contains language that would limit or deny protection to those who provide or publish classified military secrets. Specifically exempting WikiLeaks and other organizations that might otherwise qualify for protection under the act in at least some cases seems designed not to enhance the free flow of information but to channel that information to mainstream sources.
It is the nature of politics today to compromise principles to get things through, but this move certainly seems unfortunate -- and one that I imagine many news organizations will regret down the road.

Reader Comments

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  • icon
    Richard (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 4:02am

    The reality

    is that Wikileaks doesn't need a shield law. It is designed to route around legal measures using technology.

    Actually - as the Ponting case showed in the UK - the only thing that is needed is to make sure the final decision gets left to a jury. The jury in that case ignored the law and the judge - and did what was right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      chris (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 6:12am

      Re: The reality

      Wikileaks doesn't need a shield law. It is designed to route around legal measures using technology.

      technology is great and all, but wikileaks real strength is that it isn't an american operation. it's based out of sweden and iceland, the latter is working on shield laws and other legislation to become a safe haven for controversial speech on the web:

      http://immi.is/?l=en&p=vision

      the american press industry can circle its wagons all it wants, but it won't have any effect on wikileaks.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Richard (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 6:18am

        Re: Re: The reality

        At present it is convenient to operate out of Iceland/Sweden because that reduces the technological burden and ,makes the site visible on the ordinary web - but Wikileaks could operate from the US if it needed to (or if all countries operated similar laws). The technology is available to make the service itself completely anonuymous if required, not just the informants.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Vincent, 31 Aug 2010 @ 10:22am

      Re: The reality

      Actually, as the article you just linked to points out:
      The Conservative government reacted by tightening up UK secrets legislation, introducing the Official Secrets Act 1989. Before the trial a jury could take the view that if an action could be seen to be in the public interest, then that might justify the right of the individual to take that action. As a result of the 1989 modification, that defence was removed. After this enactment, it was taken that '"public interest" is what the government of the day says it is.'
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clive_Ponting#Right_to_know

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Richard (profile), 1 Sep 2010 @ 1:12am

        Re: Re: The reality

        The judge in the Ponting case said exactly the same thing - and the jury ignored him. I'm guessing that that jury would have ignored the revised law also.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2010 @ 4:23am

    Of course they are willing to sacrifice the truth as protrades in Winkileaks as Winkileaks deprive main street journalists of their most valuable assets, the ability to manipulate the news in support of a left wing agenda.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2010 @ 4:40am

      Re:

      Oh honey, you still have some of Glenn Beck's semen around your mouth.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      abc gum, 31 Aug 2010 @ 4:40am

      Re:

      Obvious troll is obvious. I'll bite anyways.

      I agree that Fox News is not journalism but are you implying that it is left wing? That's rich.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Stuart, 31 Aug 2010 @ 7:37am

        Re: Re:

        I agree that Fox news is right leaning. Are you saying that MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC and CNN are not left wing? You have Chris Mathews semen on your lip. Of course he dose not love you. He gets "shivers running up his leg" for Obama.
        At least some of understand that there are 2 bad sides. You are just an idiot wailing against one set of assholes whilst sucking the ass of a different set of the same assholes.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ChrisB (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 6:45am

      Re:

      > left wing agenda

      You are right, reporters tend to be left wing. But editors and owners are not. Guess who controls content?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ofb2632 (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 4:49am

    Journalists!! HA

    Its not like they are real journalists anymore. That is a passing era.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2010 @ 5:16am

    Great leaders own their reputation to great storms.

    I hope Wikileaks can survive the shitstorm and probably will, does it matter if the law doesn't give them protection no, would it be good to have it? yes.

    The U.S. matter in this case? no.

    Besides politics is about little gains, you don't try to get everything you want, you get one piece of the puzzle at a time. This is how things evolve on the political front and it is slow it can take decades to get everything in place, but it is good that places like Techdirt point out that the job will not be done when the law is passed if it is passed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NAMELESS ONE, 31 Aug 2010 @ 5:27am

    what news

    the only thing i see is the corporate propoganda machine all owned by the same companies

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2010 @ 6:04am

    Fox is the closest thing to Journalists left

    It's sad that the education has gotten so bad, that people think that propaganda organizations like cnn, msnbc, cbs, nbc, abc, the times that are nothing but political water carriers for the left are reporting the news. Like this weekend, 3000 at most come to DC for a Sharpton rally, 350,000+ come to a Beck rally, the main stream media, covers the Sharpton rally, while saying that there were also a few trouble makers at a Beck rally, how is that reporting the news?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 6:13am

      Re: Fox is the closest thing to Journalists left

      Here's the REAL question: why would either of those rallies belong in an actual news program or report? Neither of them is news, and if they were the headlines would be simple:

      "Two megolamaniacal retards get some people to show up where they are...."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 6:23am

      Re: Fox is the closest thing to Journalists left

      It's sad that the education has gotten so bad, that people think that propaganda organizations like cnn, msnbc, cbs, nbc, abc, the times that are nothing but political water carriers for the left

      If that lot are the left then you're going to have to invent a whole new vocabulary for The Guardian and the BBC. (and then another one for The Morning Star).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Marcel de Jong (profile), 1 Sep 2010 @ 5:30am

      Re: Fox is the closest thing to Journalism left (WRONG! they only cover what you think is journalism)

      It's sad that the education in the US has gotten so bad, that people think that proganda organizations like fox news, cnn, msnbc, abc, cbs, nbc, etc, actually report news.

      They are sponsored outfits, that only cover stories that are convenient for the companies that own them, or buy ad-time on those networks.

      Meanwhile in the rest of the world, most of us tend to listen to all sides before forming an opinion. And usually the truth is somewhere in the middle.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      rotten dirty bast3erd, 2 Sep 2010 @ 2:46pm

      Re: Fox is the closest thing to Journalists left

      @ while saying that there were also a few trouble makers at a Beck rally, how is that reporting the news?

      oh, whinge whinge

      the anti-war rallies year after year have attracted hundreds of thousands. When did *any* of the mass media report on this at all? how was that reporting the news?

      winkileaks? snore -- oh aren't you the clever one! LMAO -- at you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    out_of_the_blue, 31 Aug 2010 @ 6:26am

    "News Industry Willing To Sacrifice Wikileaks"

    Wrong take from the start. "Mainstream" news never embraced Wikileaks, so getting rid of it is a plus to them. But perhaps you mean "sacrifice" in the Aztec way, as routine -- and perhaps Wikileaks is a specially prepared victim for just the purpose of creating two classes of "journalists": legitimate and subversive.

    I incline to the view that Wikileaks is an intelligence op, and that it's being used for several goals at once.
    1) Wikileaks is a secret organization with large but unknown funding.
    2) The initial helicopter massacre video, and all following, are small dirty war details that don't undermine the very presence of US there.
    3) Much of the document release suggests reasons for starting wider wars in Pakistan and Iran, rather than ending the wars.
    4) Assange wouldn't be difficult to nab, yet he's making public appearances.
    5) The "insurance" file: if they've anything and are legitimate, they'd better dump it before *all* wind up in a secret prison.
    6) The alleged concern for informants and possibly working with the Pentagon to redact the documents. -- Er, insane. How does Wikileaks know who the informants are? And if they exist, are they really likely to be identified? And why this *possible* concern for traitors to their own country, in preference to the general populace which is *actually* and *daily* getting blown to bits by US forces? -- Adds up to overwhelming indication that an intelligence service is running Wikileaks, putting protecting informants first.
    7) Now Wikileaks is being used to put across the notion of "legitimate" journalism, or not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 8:37am

      Re: "News Industry Willing To Sacrifice Wikileaks"

      I don't think that word, overwhelming, means what you think it means. Because that evidence you just presented is anything but overwhelming.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Christopher (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 10:16am

        Re: Re: "News Industry Willing To Sacrifice Wikileaks"

        Agreed. This 'evidence' that he gives is nowhere close to being overwhelming, and to bust his allegations.

        1 is because the person who is giving the funding would be harassed by the government if they were made public.
        2 does undermine the war and the presence of the United States.
        4 is the most egregious here, because Assange has committed no crime and if he was 'nabbed', there would be a public outcry that might lead to Europe and other countries going to war with the United States.
        5 I cannot comment on, because no one knows what is in the insurance file. As to the 'secret prison' thing.... BWAHAHAHAHA! If they even TRIED to touch this man, WAR WAR WAR, JUSTIFIED WAR ON THE UNITED STATES!
        That is one time that the United States would get a SEVERE whooping from other countries around the world.
        6 is bogus. "Redacting' shouldn't be done, even by the PENTAGON. The fact is that allowing our government to have ANY secrets for anything but an extremely SHORT (1 day) period of time allows some BAD SHIT to happen.
        7 is bogus because Wikileaks IS legitimate journalism. The people who are saying they AREN'T are just pissed off that Wikileaks has exposed what a FARCE the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Remember Donaue and Politovskaya, 1 Sep 2010 @ 4:19am

      Re: "News Industry Willing To Sacrifice Wikileaks"

      I agree on you that mainstream newspapers do not like Wikileaks as Wikileaks is competitor to them - it is free source of information, which does not pay to the reporters their salary or owners of mainstream industry their revenues.

      Since Donaue was taken down during reign of Cheney - Bush was just a puppet - due lack of patriotism, the only credible person fighting for truth, and opposing the liberatrian "Free Market" - free market which has nothign free in it like the Free Market implementation in Argentina and Chile had proven. Yes. Those who are rallying for Free market were behind military coups of Argentina and Chile - and they have no will at all to spread democracy if they are not gaining money out of it.

      And I agree, Wikileaks is Intelligence Operation, but most investigative reporting can be seen as Intelligence Operation. They share too many facets with each other. On the other hand, I think the investigative reporting reportin has disappeared in major braodcasters of USA. Docudrama has replaced Documents - and Docudramas are as factual as Reality TV is - "slightly" dramatized and edited reality.

      Has everyone noticed how all news industries backing the current economic dogma has started to revision the language into something which resembles Orwellian 1984 New Speak.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bill Dodder, 31 Aug 2010 @ 6:32am

    Why doesn't it surprise me that AP is a wikileaks

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2010 @ 6:33am

    "calling those people out for sacrificing their overall principles just to get the shield law approved."

    What are you talking about, their overall principles are profit and anything the govt can do to give them a competitive advantage they will support. Then they will turn around and claim to be free market capitalists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    S, 31 Aug 2010 @ 6:35am

    Everyone is happy to point out the shortcomings and biases of mainstream media like Fox, ABC and NYT. There is some merit in this arguement.

    How is Wikileaks any different? In the last six months it has only done anti American establisment articles.

    Wikileaks has not done a single article on Sweden, United Kingdom and Germany in the last 6 months. Could it be because their Editor in Chief has absolute Editorial power with no accountability and he happens to live in these countries (apart from Iceland?). Can we seriously believe that no one has leaked anything about such big countries in Europe?

    We can sue NYT and a jury may rule in our favour. Try that with Wikileaks and you won't even know who worked on an article about something that went wrong in Belgium.

    Gawker has set up a set where people can send in stories about what really happens within Wikileaks. Lets see what kind of info is made public about Wikileaks.

    Keep our Government and mainstream media under scrutiny. And do the same for Assange.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      abc gum, 31 Aug 2010 @ 8:00pm

      Re:

      "In the last six months it has only done anti American establisment articles."

      Really?

      "We can sue NYT and a jury may rule in our favour"

      Why would you?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2010 @ 9:59pm

      Re:

      Can we seriously believe that no one has leaked anything about such big countries in Europe?

      Unless you can provide some evidence to the contrary, I'd say "yes". Accusations without evidence make you look disingenuous.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        S, 1 Sep 2010 @ 5:47am

        Same with you

        And your assetion without evidence makes you ? What evidence do you have to back your arguement? Do you have access to what was leaked to Wikileaks and can be sure there is nothing about Germany and UK?

        This is the problem. With Assange as God in chief, both of us can not be sure what was leaked and what was published

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2010 @ 2:45pm

          Re: Same with you

          And your assetion without evidence makes you ? What evidence do you have to back your arguement?

          My assertion and argument was that you didn't provide any evidence. So now you're asking me prove that you didn't? What are you, some kind of troll?I think it's pretty obvious from your post. If you'd like to point out where you actually did, then please do. Otherwise, you're just digging your hole deeper.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2010 @ 1:48am

      Re:

      yes it dose and yes it has its just that the usa is ment to be a leader of the world but the leadership is well flaud and wen a supper power fights with weaker oponents.if any of iraq or afgh had a real wmd then u clowns wouldnt have went to war 12 saudi,s were in the so called terror strikes why did u invade those places.anyway wiki dose rerport on other countrys its just u only see what u want 2

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Marcel de Jong (profile), 1 Sep 2010 @ 5:35am

      Re:

      It's amazing how people think that Wikileaks is a newspaper.
      They merely distribute content that get leaked by whistle blowers.
      And if the recent batch of leaks only show the bad side of the US government, then that's what's happening.

      Who knows, next week, they'll report something damning on the German government. Or perhaps show the missing photos from Srebrenica from the time when the Dutch forces were there to keep the peace.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Michael Lockyear (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 6:44am

    Aren't we lucky that Wikileaks is not dependent on US laws!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2010 @ 7:06am

    News is objective. Opinions/Editorials are subjective.

    Glenn Beck Organizes Rally

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CJ (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 7:37am

    oh someone is mad!

    It's the news media! They can't deliver the good honest news to the public. They are so caught up with Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and the like... Plus trying to out do their rivals with the petty loud crap, they don't know how to deliver the real news anymore. Now they want to take their frustrations out on wikileaks. They can't stand the thought of a website becoming so popular.

    Hopefully the Judge presiding will realize it.. for what it really is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bob, 31 Aug 2010 @ 9:51am

    Shouldn't be a shocker. "Real" journalists have been selling out the country for a while now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Christopher (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 10:00am

    Compromising principle to get things through is NOT acceptable in my book. The fact is that Wikileaks is a good site, even after all this hullabaloo about them making US Armed Forces documents public.

    They are one of the ONLY organizations that are taking government to task for their rampant, unnecessary secrecy, which leads to NUMEROUS instances of the Armed Forces trying to hide massacres, killings of innocents, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    From Spain, 31 Aug 2010 @ 12:27pm

    the most amazing thing

    The most amazing thing of all this is that Wikileaks is just exposing FACTS.

    People have ALL THE RIGHTS in the world to know what is being done with their money. Politics just treat them as rubbish.

    Sorry for my english.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    whoever anywhere, 31 Aug 2010 @ 12:36pm

    this article

    ??wtf "shouldn't be a shocker", the lack of logics IS in fact even quite a shocker. journalists know that they need this platform if they want to move on with re to their own quality, if prefering concrete topics.

    "shouldn't be a shocker". well, depends on to whom. a country where you can call yourself a "christian" and run to the church every sunday in order to be elected, but then you have no logics shock if you allow lawyers to call a murder "juristically clean and legal" after letting the witnesses swear on a bible which usually - due to it's basic rules - forbids the witness to take part in a court case with a murder aim...

    in such a country maybe "not a shocker" but believe us - pips who read this page from other parts if this world:
    a) faint
    b) fall down (carefully onto a couch)
    c) get a heart attack
    d) and need a few hours to return to work...

    seriously, QUITE QUITE QUITE a shocker for normal pips. (i.e. thinking ones.) (those without cheese.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dept of Corrections, 31 Aug 2010 @ 3:37pm

    Proofreading

    Your article would benefit by a bit of proofreading.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 31 Aug 2010 @ 5:26pm

      Re: Proofreading

      Your article would benefit by a bit of proofreading.


      It was proofread, actually, but mistakes get through. Normally, people point out what the typos/mistakes are so we can fix them.

      We encourage that sort of thing. Simply saying that there are errors without pointing them out comes off making you look bad. Pointing out the actual errors would go a long way towards helping us fix them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      was proofread, 1 Sep 2010 @ 2:52am

      Re: Proofreading

      seems to... have been proofread already. click. [http://shortlinks.de/6v75 for ctrl+copy]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    franz, 31 Aug 2010 @ 10:50pm

    wiky

    the truth is there asange knows it. amerikkka went to irak but the money and blood trail leads to pakistan. the whole american media is accomplice of treason inculding most politicians.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Silver platter, 1 Sep 2010 @ 3:00am

    Its all about power in the world of Journalism! Who ever got the best weapons, they get the gold...and as the golden rule goes...who ever has the gold, makes the rules!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan, 1 Sep 2010 @ 2:44pm

    In the end it doesnt matter if wikileaks goes down, there are enough of us getting servers ready for wikileaks2, wikileaks3, etc... The good old US has squeezed the citizens too much and were getting our ducks in order.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Brendan, 1 Sep 2010 @ 4:11pm

    Those guys are willing to publish anything they find. ergo, not the same as journalists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2010 @ 8:45pm

      Re:

      Those guys are willing to publish anything they find.

      You don't know much about them, do you?

      First, they don't go out and "find" stuff. They publish stuff that is sent to them.

      Second, of what is sent to them they only publish what meets their standards.

      You could avoid looking so foolish by finding out what you're talking about *before* popping off about it.

      ergo, not the same as journalists.

      You mean like The National Enquirer, etc.? Or maybe like The New York Times, with writers that just make stuff up or parrot copyright industry talking points? Those journalists? Thank goodness Wikileaks seems more reliable than those "journalists" then.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mhenriday (profile), 3 Sep 2010 @ 11:46am

    The best comment I've seen on corporate journalists'

    relations with and attitudes toward Wikileaks, was actually penned to reflect another case, viz, Michael Hastings's Rolling Stone article on Mr Stanley McCrystal. Here a link (http://preview.tinyurl.com/2dr3b3r ) to Dwayne Booth's cartoon, which says all that needs to be said on the subject.... Henri

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2010 @ 2:07am

    hes not leaking, he stole things he had no right to have and released them without care of impact, hes a traitor, and the other should disappear in the night, with the aid of some highly motivated seals

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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