Truth and transparency: the media politics of Wikileaks

Authors: Thorsen, E., Sreedharan, C., Allan, S. and Andén-Papadopoulos, K.

Conference: International Association for Media and Communications Research World Congress

Dates: 13-17 July 2011


This paper examines the news discourse of Wikileaks, which has recently emerged as a global political force by publishing documents that were “classified, confidential, censored or otherwise withheld from the public”. With collaborators and resources spread across nations, it can be seen as a unique, stateless, “irregular” news organisation, powered by anonymous citizen journalists.

Our paper provides a comparative textual analysis of the discourse surrounding three key datasets leaked in 2010 - dubbed the Afghan War Logs, the Iraqi War Logs and Cablegate (the US Embassy Cables). Specifically we will compare how Wikileaks packaged its publications of raw and largely unmediated data, to the traditional newspaper narratives of those organisations that worked with Wikileaks on each publication. Primary focus will therefore be on news reports from the original partners, the Guardian (UK), the New York Times (US), and Der Spiegel (Germany), but due attention will also be given to other news organisations that collaborated with Wikileaks at a later stage.

The leaks created media outcry and a backlash not only against the “scandals”, but also about the way Wikileaks operates – its quest for transparency and disclosure for the self-proclaimed greater good, seemingly at any cost. Familiar assumptions underpinning any evaluative appraisal about the changing role of professional journalism in the digital age are recast when contrasted with such citizen-centred alternatives. In light of our comparative analysis, the paper will explore how this apparent democratisation of participation enriches and challenges traditional reportorial norms and values.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Chindu Sreedharan and Einar Thorsen