For anyone interested in exploring the limits of citizen journalistic enterprise, and the economics of investigative reporting, there’s interesting news about whistle-blowing site, Wikileaks.
Wikileaks is planning to drop the wiki model entirely. In the future, it plans to pre-release selected documents to investigative journalists, then publish them once a story appears. That gives the favored reporters time to analyze and verify documents without fear of being scooped.
[Julian] Assange is even toying with the idea of making his site a subscription service that pre-releases secret documents to paying reporters. The reporters would have the option of writing about a given leak, or passing on it and getting another, if the reporter doesn’t find it useful.
The change is partly due to economics, he says. Academics and journalists are among the few who have time to spend poring over documents.
It’s also partly because people online seem more inclined to comment on something that’s already been analyzed, than analyze it themselves, says Assange. [Wired]
It reinforces David Leigh’s point made during the Guardian’s session on citizen journalism at its Future of Journalism series:
“No citizen journalist or wise crowd is going to see the process of political decisions and take a photo.”
Leigh added that he was excited by the possibilities opened by technology but he had been disappointed by some of the results so far. For example, Wikileaks, a site for whistleblowers to securely leak documents, sounded great in principle but “didn’t work.”
Leigh said the problem was that documents would be uploaded to the site but no one knew what they meant because there was no context or analysis. In another example, he put a call out for people to help with an international investigation and all he got back were “some nutters and spam.”