Julian Assange's Tumultuous Relationship With Traditional Media

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The latest issue of Vanity Fair contains a detailed account of the how Julian Assange came to work with editors at The Guardian and other world-renowned newspapers to produce the massive post-Thanksgiving WikiLeaks release. Vanity Fair's Sarah Ellison refers to the collaboration as "a clash of civilizations," that resulted in Assange threatening to sue The Guardian.

Ellison breaks down the backgrounds of both Assange and The Guardian. Assange is portrayed as an adversary of traditional media, opposing any sort of editing or redacting of the leaked information, such as the names of particular service members and Afghan civilians. Assange appears, also, to have oftentimes used supposedly major information as leverage, both in dealing with editors and soliciting donations from WikiLeaks readers.

The feature answers many questions about the elusive Assange and raises even more. Bloggers compliment and criticize what Ellison revealed.

  • Assange Has a Big Ego, But Not Bigger Than Most Editors  After reading Ellison’s Vanity Fair piece, Slate's Jack Shafer takes away the impression of Julian Assange as "a wily shape-shifter who won't sit still, an unpredictable negotiator who is forever changing the terms of the deal." Still, perhaps Assange and members of the traditional media aren't so different after all. "For all his egomania, I still don’t think Assange is any more bent than any top newspaper or magazine editor I’ve had the pleasure to have known," concludes Shafer.
  • Assange Believed He 'Owned' The Information In Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing’s opinion, the most interesting piece of information revealed in the piece is that “Assange threatened to sue The Guardian because he was upset that the newspaper secured an unauthorized copy of one leak ‘package’ from a WikiLeaks volunteer, and was considering breaking the embarg. In other words: WikiLeaks was going to sue The Guardian over a leak, because Assange believed he owned the content which had been leaked to him.”
  • This Won’t Stop Future Leaks Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum considers Ellison's report "fascinating" and puts forth a prediction for the future of WikiLeaks-style organizations:
I suspect that other organizations with access to big databases of leaked material will have little trouble finding media partners to help them publicize it. In time, it might even become a pretty standard way of doing business. And while funding will remain an issue, I imagine that organizations dedicated to leaking will, over time, develop both an infrastructure and a way of doing business that works pretty well. WikiLeaks may be in trouble right now, but others will learn from their mistakes.
  • 'Disappointingly Tame' At Business Insider, on the other had, Glynnis MacNicol isn't totally impressed with the feature, calling it "disappointingly tame (considering the subject)" and arguing that "what it doesn't manage to cover--Assange's reaction to the release of his rape charges--is merely the usual failure of print to be completely up-to-date on a moving story."
  • Why Is The Guardian Still Following Assange’s Rules Ellison’s article leaves The Atlantic’s Nicholas Jackson with some lingering questions:
If the Guardian has its own set of the diplomatic cables and is no longer bound by Assange's rules, why is the paper still following them? We know there are a quarter of a million documents waiting to get out and WikiLeaks is slowly letting them drip out. If he wanted to, Rusbridger could give the sign.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.