Wiki what? WikiLeaks.

According to Time Magazine, websites like WikiLeaks and WikiNews “could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”

The beauty of wikis in general is that multiple editors and contributors can collaborate on a web page. The most famous  wiki, of course, is Wikipedia. In 2004, Wikipedia decided to apply the concept of Wikipedia to news, and created what was called WikiNews. The goal was to promote the idea of the citizen journalist – the idea that anyone, anywhere, can be a journalist.

Of course, just because someone posts something on a wiki, does not make it true. Mutual trust and cooperation are the key ‘checks and balances’ that help make WikiNews legitimate. WikiNews has a policy that must be followed by users when referring to points of fact. The policy states, all sources used for information must be cited, and they must be verifiable by someone else. In the case of original reporting, field notes must be presented on the article’s discussion. By having these checks in balances in place, WikiNews can remain accurate.

Although WikiNews seems like a good idea, there are cases where other wikis have gotten out of hand.

Photo Credit - WikiLeaks.org

A website called WikiLeaks started off as an organization that publishes anonymous submissions and “leaks” of otherwise unavailable documents while preserving the anonymity of sources. At first, WikiLeaks was promising to the journalism industry. Being able to access otherwise confidential documents instantaneously rather than going through the long process of an FOI request (Freedom of Information) seemed like an amazing thing. But it’s true that too much of a good thing, is not good.

In late July, WikiLeaks was thrown into the spotlight when it posted a huge trove of secret U.S. military documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to ABC News, the U.S. Defense Department has warned “it could have blood on its hands for publishing documents that name Afghan sources.” This brings us to the question – has journalism gone too far?

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said he supported tools like WikiLeaks that expose wrongdoing, but he also noted that journalists must practice integrity and responsibility to censor unrelated information that could put people in danger.

As technology and information evolve, it becomes easier to access information. However, a journalist needs to be careful when dealing with new tools like WikiLeaks. Although technology is evolving, the ethical codes of journalism must still apply.

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