Bill Keller, Executive Editor for the New York Times spoke today at a conference hosted by Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab. The title of the forum was “From Watergate to WikiLeaks: Journalism and Secrecy in the New Media Age,” so naturally Keller reflected on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. As is often the case when WikiLeaks gets brought up, ambiguity reigns supreme.
They have gone from an absolutist view of transparency with an at least suggested motive of embarrassing or bringing down bad governments to an organization that has been leaking out the documents in a more journalistic fashion, [including] redacting them. I don’t think they’ve become my kind of news organization, but they have evolved.
Keller went on to say that he didn’t think of Assange as a fellow journalist, only a source, and a comical one at that:
Throughout this experience, we have regarded Julian Assange and his merry band of provocateurs and hackers as a source. I will not say a source pure and simple, because, as any reporter or editor can attest, sources are rarely pure or simple.
If you’re picturing Assange in tights prancing around like Robin Hood right now, please know that we are too.
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