I’ve long held that “Codes of Journalistic Ethics” aren’t ethics codes in the sense that laypeople understand, but merely frameworks to allow journalists to justify bad behavior.
Likewise, National Public Radio’s “On The Media” seems to exist primarily to give a big, fat “attaboy” to liberal bias in the media.
Over the weekend, OTM host Bob Garfield did an interview (of sorts) with one of the editors of the Wikileaks website. Wikileaks oozed its way into Minnesota political life this past week by publishing…well, we’ll get back to that.
From OTM’s website:
The site Wikileaks posts leaked documents from anonymous whistleblowers worldwide, even if those documents pose a danger or could potentially lead to loss of life. Julian Assange, the site’s investigations editor, explains why Wikileaks publishes almost anything it receives.
The story (which you should listen to, if you haven’t already) mentions the Coleman incident – Garfield notes that the “whistleblowing” involved revealing the names and other personal data of 52,000 people – but focuses more on Wikileaks’ version of “journalism”.
The interview with Mr. Assange focuses mainly on Wikileaks’ perceived justification for broadcasting leaks, as well as for doing it largely anonymously. That is, of course, a subject for an upper-division J-school seminar.
But Garfield missed the question that I suspect a lot of people would love to ask Mr. Assange:
“Mr. Assange: Imagine if you will a story about a serial rapist. The story mentions the serial rapist, but focuses entirely on identifying the rapist’s victims and digging up personal dirt about them. Is that good journalism?”
“Of course not. Now – since Wikileaks claims to be “journalism”, tell me; if the “story” your “whistleblower” claimed to have uncovered was the security bobble with Coleman’s website, why were the identies of the 50,000-odd victims any more relevant than the identies of the rape victims?”
“Of course you can’t answer that question. Because for all you talk about being true journalists, you’re nothing but a bunch of ideology-driven intellectual vandals, hiding behind a label that you only recognize the most self-serving, solopsistic aspects of”.
That would have made it a good story.