7 Apr 2010

Who do you trust?

The recent release of video material from a US gunship in Iraq in which two Reuters journalists were killed by American forces in 2007 has made it into the headlines in just about every credible news organisation.

The material is truly shocking and there'll be plenty written about it. From a communications point of view, it was interesting that the anonymous sources that leaked this information chose not to do so to a well known news organisation but rather to Wikileaks.

Wikileaks was founded in 2006 by a group of human rights activists, journalists and technicians. It survives on donations. After being exposed on Wikileaks, I found the story on Facebook; a couple of friends posted the footage there a few hours after Wikileaks came out with it. It feels like the major newspapers and tv stations are WAY behind.

When I worked as a journalist in Ireland in the late 90's, news was always leaked to two to three of the leading news organisations; a major broadsheet newspaper, the national broadcaster etc. These were the credible news organisations and the 'leakers' were obviously confident that their information would be kept confidential if they so wished and that the information would get out.

But today, Woodward and Bernstein have to keep an eye on sites like wikileaks to see what's coming out. Major news organisations face libel cases and have other corporate concerns that they need to bear in mind before broadcasting or publishing so whistleblowers are tending to go where they know their material can see the light of day. Once there, the other news organisations will have to follow the story.

So, is this a sign that major broadsheets and broadcasters have lost their credibility when those with a 'scoop' choose not to pass this information on to the well known investigative journalist?

Then again, do people trust Wikileaks? or do they just leak information there and we wait for it to get verified?


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