Last night the whistleblower website Wikileaks posted more than 90,000 documents relating the coalition presence in Afghanistan. This morning, the content of those leaks…and the way in which the information was disseminated… has become the talk of the media business.
In the meantime, it is worth noting that the Wikileaks “War Logs” present a very 21st century problem, both for media companies and governments.
For media companies, it is a case study in the shift of power and influence.
Companies that were once gatekeepers of information no longer control the gate. Information can reach the masses without them, and their role has shifted. Rather then being gatekeepers, 21st century media companies need to become curators of information. In the case of the “War Logs,” the shear number of entries means that most people will not bother to go through them, even though the information is now available direct.
So the New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian each put their own team of reporters on the case, and highlighted what they felt were the most important takeaways from the logs. This is what the future holds. More and more, information will be put in public for all to see, and the gatekeepers’ role will change along with it.
If you go to the Wikileaks Twitter profile, next to “location” it says: Everywhere. Which is one of the most striking things about it: the world’s first stateless news organization. I can’t think of any prior examples of that. (Dave Winer in the comments: “The blogosphere is a stateless news organization.”) Wikileaks is organized so that if the crackdown comes in one country, the servers can be switched on in another. This is meant to put it beyond the reach of any government or legal system. That’s what so odd about the White House crying, “They didn’t even contact us!”
Wikileaks is a news source without a country. Before the internet, such an organization would be very difficult to create and maintain, but in today’s world, it is incredibly, remarkably easy.
This is what makes it a 21st century problem. Wikileaks could not have existed before now, but it is here. Media companies are beginning to catch on with regard to their new role in this system, a system in which organizations like Wikileaks have suddenly and unexpectedly entrenched themselves.