As the campaign to shutdown WikiLeaks intensifies, mainstream media needs to get off on the sidelines and rescue the beleaguered site. The New York Times should take a bold stand and immediately offer to host the site and its leaked classified material.
A New York Times-WikiLeaks partnership would strengthen our democracy and give traditional journalism a much needed boost of relevancy.
When WikiLeaks began leaking classified information, notably horrific video of a deadly helicopter attack on journalists in Iraq, the site’s founder Julian Assange was only modestly successful. He tried to go it alone in distributing the materials and had little luck with getting pick-up from the mainstream media. Assange was treated as an outsider and a perhaps illegitimate source of news; Assange viewed big media with similar mistrust.
However, Assange changed his tactics with the recent troves of leaked classified materials. WikiLeaks cooridinated each release with such top news organizations as the Guardian and the New York Times. Doing so elevated WikiLeaks’ reputation and provided traditional distribution, two elements that have multiplied the impact of WikiLeaks’ information.
In recent days however, WikiLeaks was kicked to the curb by two US web host companies — Amazon and EveryDNS. And today PayPal announced on its site: “PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity. We’ve notified the account holder of this action.”
These moves by U.S. companies — perhaps under pressure from the U.S. government, should alarm anyone concerned with protecting an open and transparent society. And who better to fulfill this role? The New York Times.
But is today’s New York Times, in name the same organization that more than three decades ago published the Pentagon Papers, up to the task? In a messy online exchange with New York Times readers, Bill Keller, executive managing editor, declared that “WikiLeaks is not a ‘media partner’ of The Times.”
Really? The New York Times, has more than benefited from privileged access (both direct and indirect)to the WikiLeaks material. Certainly the controversial stories have increased newsstand sales and traffic to NYTimes.com.
So, an appeal is in order:
Bill Keller, the time for bold action is now: Make WikiLeaks a ‘media partner.’ Move the WikiLeaks site and its classified information onto the New York Times web servers. Dare the U.S. government to challenge you on this. WikiLeaks, which has now fled to Sweden, is too easy an target as a stand alone organization.
Bill Keller, you’ve quoted Thomas Jefferson’s remark that he would rather have newspapers without government than government without newspapers.
Bill Keller, we soon could end up with neither newspapers nor WikiLeaks. Please act now.
Watch Julian Assange describe his motivation for releasing leaked classified information.
Watch Amy Goodman describe reporting on the WikiLeaks video of a U.S. helicopter attack on journalists.