WikiLeaks or WikiLedes?
[NYT correspondent Mark] MAZZETTI: Well, as a reporter, you're very rarely confronted with this amount of information, and so it's almost - it's the reverse of the situation you're normally in, which is too little information. Here, we are confronted with such a volume of information that it's hard to make sense of it and it's hard to know how to - which parts to emphasize and which parts not to. NPR transcriptIf nothing else, the WikiLeaks exposure should test the claims of journalists and bloggers with regard to the quality of their attention to data.
Journalists still pretend they own the space of creating/reporting news. Bloggers will continue to contend that without intelligent and ethically responsible interpretation of what is reported, the journalistic niche doesn't amount to very much.
An actual journalist would rename WikiLeaks to WikiLedes - because the 92,000 or so documents are so many leads (or ledes) into the complex world of the Afghan war, and this is a relatively small set of documents (the NYT calls it "exhaustive," but probably just means "exhausting").
What Mr. Mazzetti points to as exceptional is in fact the normal case: the actual data out there for any story are potentially infinite. Newsmen deal with digested digests, rarely with the raw. But they forget they are dealing with pre-digested regurgiatives, and think they possess mastery over a certain genuine terrain. They do not.
Wikileaks exposes the abbreviative power of news media. Faced with something like the complexity of the real, Mr. Mazzetti thought he was dealing with something unusual. He was not. The gap between the NYT accounts of Afghanistan before WikiLeaks, and the density of the documents now available is vast. What Mr. Mazzetti and the NYT are looking at is the abyss that is always there in any bit of actuality, but which their customary defenses have always dealt with deftly and obliviously. They'll need a new set of defenses if the leaks keep coming.
The Times had three weeks or more to examine the documents. Others now have more leisure, and might find more there than the Times did. And pursue different inquiries. On Democracy Now, Julian Assange raises a question about the Pentagon's decision to fire up a criminal investigation into the source(s) of the Wikileaks material:
Why is it that an investigation is announced to go into the source, before an investigation is announced to deal with the potentially criminal conduct that is revealed by this material? DNWikileaks is lifting two veils: one on the war, the other -- perhaps more significant -- on the unreality of everyday journalism, the fictional, smooth, clear narrative arcs of the Times, NPR, MSNBC, etc.
After cataract surgery, the eyes can be sensitive to light.