Recently, Wikileaks released a bunch of sensitive military documents (92,000 papers to be exact). These documents caused an international furor, and Wikileaks enjoyed lots of media coverage worldwide and surge in popularity. But the way the information was released to the public highlights the interdependency between Wikileaks and the mainstream media.
How Wikileaks works
The internet is an uncensored source of information. You cannot control who gets what kind of information online. Wikileaks has used this fact to their advantage. Wikileaks encourages anyone to share classified information which they think that the public has a right to know. If a person has access to such information, he/she uploads it to the Wikileaks website. His/her privacy is protected through encryption to prevent possible backlash. Then, the information is published on the Wikileaks website for the world to see.
But then again, even if Wikileaks posts such important information online, it doesn’t ensure that the public will read the information and this is where the mainstream media comes in. Wikileaks can be assured of a wide audience for its information if it gives the information to mainstream media to be published in newspapers, magazines and shown on TV. Wikileaks is currently not popular enough to make the kind of waves that it wants to. It has to rely on the wide reach of mainstream media, and so it remains heavily dependent on it. This picture may change in the coming years, but today Wikileaks needs the media.
Another reason why it is dependent on the media is that no one is more capable of interpreting information more clearly than the mainstream media. They are experts at transforming jargon into layman’s words so that the public can understand the information. Wikileaks has no such capability, and it is unlikely to have such in the future.
The Mainstream Media
In earlier times, someone wishing to share a secret had to go to a prominent publication for help. The publication decided whether the information was noteworthy, and then whether or not to publish it. In going to the mainstream media, the person sharing the information could be exposed and would face the possibility of vengeance from the slighted party. But today, because of the internet and Wikileaks, the person can just share the information without fear. In the future, almost everyone will leak information online. So, if the mainstream media wants to get a slice of the action, it has to collaborate with Wikileaks now and in the future as well.
Also, Wikileaks acts as a free investigative department for the mainstream media. Costs of investigation in the real world are high and Wikileaks is free. At a time when paper publication subscriptions are declining and cost cutting is rampant, anything free is a god given gift.
There is, without doubt, much interdependency between Wikileaks and the mainstream media and this interdependency will only grow in the coming years. In fact, we may yet see a day where one cannot survive without the other. One thing that has certainly become clear is that internet journalism cannot replace real world journalism; all it can do it help it.