Wikileaks and the challenge of the “Fifth Estate”
Flew, Terry & Wilson, Jason A. (2012) Wikileaks and the challenge of the “Fifth Estate”. In Ricketson, Matthew (Ed.) Australian Journalism Today. Palgrave Macmillan, Melbourne, pp. 170-183.
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The Time magazine ‘Person of theYear’ award is a venerable institution. Established by Time’s founder Henry Luce in 1927 as ‘Man of the Year’, it is an annual award given to ‘a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that ‘for better or for worse ... has done the most to influence the events of the year’ (Time 2002, p. 1). In 2010, the award was given to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of the social networking site Facebook.There was, however, a strong campaign for the ‘People’s Choice’ award to be given to Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, the online whistleblowing site. Earlier in the year Wikileaks had released more than 250 000 US government diplomatic cables through the internet, and the subsequent controver- sies around the actions of Wikileaks and Assange came to be known worldwide as ‘Cablegate’.
The focus of this chapter is not on the implications of ‘Cablegate’ for international diplomacy, which continue to have great significance, but rather upon what the emergence of Wikileaks has meant for journalism, and whether it provides insights into the future of journalism. Both Facebook and Wikileaks, as well as social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube, and independent media practices such as blogging, citizen journalism and crowdsourcing, are manifestations of the rise of social media, or what has also been termed web 2.0.The term ‘web 2.0’ was coined by Tim O’Reilly, and captures the rise of online social media platforms and services, that better realise the collaborative potential of digitally networked media. They do this by moving from the relatively static, top-down notions of interactivity that informed early internet development, towards more open and evolutionary models that better harness collective intelligence by enabling users to become the creators and collaborators in the development of online media content (Musser and O’Reilly 2007; Bruns 2008).
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