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New media WikiLeaks uses traditional media for its 'Afghan War Diary'

The New York Times' website on the WikiLeaks files.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: So here's a question about the big Afghanistan-Pakistan document dump that broke late last night: WikiLeaks, the group that has the 90,000 or so pages of intelligence information gave the stash to only three news companies to analyze ahead of time: The New York Times, The Guardian in the U.K. and Der Spiegel in Germany. But why? Why not just post it for all to see right away?

Marketplace's Eve Troeh has more on a new media powerhouse using old media tactics.


Eve Troeh: Kelly McBride studies online journalism for the Poynter Institute. She says she learned about the Afghanistan war logs on Twitter, followed by a text message from CNN. And she says that was the plan -- to get everyone talking about the documents by getting the New York Times to validate them first.

Kelly McBride: Corporations have known this for years -- that if you want people to pay attention, you let just a couple of very influential media outlets in, knowing that others will follow suit.

With a name like "WikiLeaks" this top-down approach seems surprising. But founder Julian Assange says he's found only one carrot that gets journalists to dig through his piles of raw material: "You can have it first." Here's Assange in a December interview.

Julian Assange: When you release something to the world its scarcity goes from zero to infinity. There is not a good incentive for journalists to invest in pulling the material apart and writing up and placing it in context.

Now, there is. Kelly McBride at Poynter says WikiLeaks will now have even the most short-staffed newsrooms lining up for a scoop.

McBride: A lot of editors are probably asking around the news rooms, "Hey, does anyone know those guys at WikiLeaks and could you let them know we're interested in playing along, too?"

She says todays leaks show that the "new media" still depend on the "old media" to make news.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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