May 23, 2013
Written by Nicole Narea
Thursday, 17 February 2011 00:00
Recently, Julian Assange invited me to a dinner party. The menu? A hearty portion of free expression generously spiced with political intrigue. Had it not been a school night, I might have considered shedding my do-gooding journalistic image to attend, joining the renegades at WikiLeaks for the festivities. Granted, in my effort to impress you, I omitted the fact that the guest list was far from exclusive. In fact, the event was called his “Dinner for Free Speech,” hosted by people all over the world who commenced dining at 6:30 p.m. in a unified celebration of the importance of free expression and WikiLeaks.While I myself did not host a dinner, I found the concept of the evening intriguing. In spite of the worldwide foreign policy crisis that erupted when the media organization released secret U.S. diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks has indeed made Julian Assange a figurehead of free speech. He serves as an ugly reminder to the U.S. government that independent media sources remain the watchdogs and gadflies of society.
Though the arguably invasive 2001 Patriot Act may have made it easier for the government to investigate private records and communications, Assange has resolved to turn the tables and give the government a bitter taste of its own medicine. Secrecy is elusive in the age of the Internet, even for the government of the most powerful nation in the world.
Many agree that Julian Assange is a man of influence — a whopping 89% of Time readers voted in favor of electing him the magazine’s Person of the Year in a December 2010 online poll. But the question remains: Is he a hero or a villain? Voicing a common critique of Assange in an interview on Fox Newswatch Saturday, former New York Times writer Judith Miller deemed him a “bad journalist” because he failed to “verify the information that he was putting out or determine whether or not it would hurt anyone.” However, this is based on the false pretense that Assange is a journalist, when, in reality, he plays the role of a source. He is the equivalent of Watergate’s Deep Throat … on steroids.
It is important to make this distinction between journalism and news sources. In his role as a “source,” it was not Assange’s responsibility to verify his information or determine whether or not its release would act in the public interest. Furthermore, Internet media like Twitter and Facebook cannot be regarded as reliable journalism, though they are being used as tools of live iReporting, managing as of late to even wobble autocrats. The job of a journalist is to utilize those resources available to us through the Internet and handle them with responsibility. It was ultimately the ethical dilemma of the newspapers that partnered with WikiLeaks in releasing the cables, such as The New York Times and The Guardian, to determine whether or not it would endanger the public good.
This is why I must believe that journalism is not a dying field, but rather a profession that is changing with the landscape. Born into an age when Google makes the world accessible to my fingertips, I often forget that I am, in fact, lucky to be entering the field of journalism at this crossroads. The Internet is forcing journalists to redefine their role in news reporting. It could give new meaning to muckraking — sifting through endless “sources” available online to aggregate and verify valuable material — and ultimately determine whether or not reporting it is in the public’s good. In the end, society may well conclude that journalists are most valued not for their ability to break the news first but rather for their acumen to be the “curators of information.” Simply not just to report — but rather verify, trust, analyze, and then and only then, report.
Now, back to dinner. So tell me, Mr. Assange, where did you ever find the ingredients for these delicious hors d’œuvres?
Nicole Narea is a junior from Greenwich at Convent of the Sacred Heart.
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