How to Think About WikiLeaks

Jay Rosen on what exactly WikiLeaks is, as an institution. [Video: PressThink]

It is the world's first *stateless* news organization. What I mean by that is that all previous press companies or outfits have been formed under the laws of a given state and they reflect the culture and society of that place. The BBC is an international organization but it was formed, created by the British people. The New York Times has, still, despite its shrunken size, a global reach, but it is the product of the United States and of New York and it exists under the laws, traditions, and press culture of a state. But Wikileaks belongs to the Internet. And not only does it not obey the laws of any one nation. Not only does it exceed or secede from the press culture in the countries of the world, but it doesn't even start where they start. And so, it's a novel formation, a type of organization we haven't seen before. (Added 12/8/10, 12:50pm)

C.W. Anderson on the cables as a peculiar kind of "crowdsourced evidence." [Nieman Lab]

So the presence of these strange new extra-journalistic news objects isn't all that new. New "quasi-sources" have been hacking journalistic workflow for years. What's new is the scale of the evidence that's now bombarding journalism. The question of how to manage reader-submitted photos is a qualitatively different question than the dilemma of how to manage hundreds of thousands of leaked cables being provided by an information-transparency organization whose ultimate motives and values are unclear. Think of the State Department cables as a massive pile of crowdsourced evidence -- only in this case the "crowd" is the U.S. diplomatic corps, and the first work of document collection and analysis has been done by an outside organization. (Added 12/9/2010, 1:17 pm)

Emily Bell on how WikiLeaks has woken up journalism. [EmilyBellwether.wordpress.com]

Journalism is not just an intermediary in this, it is part of this. Journalists need to know what they think about the mission of Wikileaks and others like it, and they need to know where they would stand if the data dropped onto their desks and the government pressured them to be silent.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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