Battle lines behind documents

By BenitaZepeda

In light of the recent controversies surrounding WikiLeak’s release of nearly 400,000 Iraqi war documents, it seems the world of media and whistle-blowing, good-guy versus bad-guy reporting and issues with governmental transparency have hit the fan, and there are allegedly more to come.

While I understand the seriousness and complexity of this subject far exceed my word count, the way this entire issue is portrayed is perplexing. Just as with any facet of politics and criticism of government, I try to do what any informed citizen—and writer—should do. Analyze the facts.

I am rather disappointed by the way several media outlets have focused on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as the reason why this entire event is newsworthy in the first place. Even a recent New York Times article has received harsh criticism because it supposedly distracts the reader by including information about how Assange is now on the run.

But Assange shouldn’t be the main focus, despite the objectivity in some coverage. People don’t seem to pay attention to the main problem at hand, rooted far deeper than the documents—the lack of transparency of our government and the terrifying fact the world needs whistle-blowers in the first place.

However naive I might be as a journalism student approaching graduation, I thought a major point of journalism was to serve as government watchdogs. We are taught to report accurately and objectively, but in situations such as this the media is failing.

Why have several media outlets left us with a bit of doubt in our minds about what the truth is? Does the word truth even mean anything anymore?

Although criticism, such as New York Times reporter James Glanz’s response to questions from its readers that WikiLeaks “does not have that expertise” to report on the information it has leaked to the public like journalists do, this shouldn’t matter. These documents have been leaked for a reason.

The government claims these documents have endangered the lives of informants who are listed by name within them. However, the lives the government talks of being in risk are hypothetical; nothing was reported as of press time regarding someone being harmed because of these leaked documents.

The actual blood being shed from the war has nothing to do with those documents. It is because of the decisions made by our government.

The transparency which was promised by President Barack Obama during his campaign is turning into the complete opposite. It’s this secrecy, the lack of transparency, which diminishes the quality of some of the most reputable news organizations.

It’s times like this that make me skeptical about the idea that journalism, in a traditional sense, can change the world. How could it if no one knows what the truth is anymore?