Wikileaks - a force for good or ill?
is director of OffspinMedia and a former Today editor
But the fact is that the first pass on the dox has been underwhelming. The most that can be said so far is that some of the diplomatic cables are "embarrassing" - that journalistic catch-all for something we think is a bit wooky and that people should care about and thank us for and get into a lather about. But something which we can't quite put our finger on.
You'll hear it all the time in the mouth of the most witless interviewers. But that's a diversion.
Wikileaks and its odd, secretive, self-regarding chief Julian Assange is a worry. A worry to investigative and accountability journalism and transparency.
And the fact that it's a worry is a worry.
Journalism, as my friend Jonathan Freedland once said, is a fundamentally liberal trade. It's about liberating information and putting it into the public sphere. A way that we can address the information asymmetry that means power has all the information and we - the governed - have to scratch around for what we can. While holding to account those to whom we've lent our power.
Transparency is all. Which is the first worry about Wikileaks.
What is Wikileaks? What's it about? What are its motives? What are Julian Assange's motives?
And this matters. One of the first questions journalists must ask any whistle blower is ... what's his/her motive?
The truth is, we know so little about Wikileaks - how its paid for, how its organised, what its connections are with those whose 'secrets' it
So what not to like about Wikileaks?
Political vet Michael White raises one cheer - his paper, after all, majors on the diplomatic cables. But as he says - what we have here is a mountain of embarrassment. That journalistic catch-all we use when we dont really know the significance of something but feel it all looks a bit wooky.
Now, as Simon Jenkins argues in the Guardian, the job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. No but its a pretty unambitious media that thinks embarrassment is an end in itself; the inevitable side effect of revelatory journalism, sure we can all buy that. But an end in itself?
We all know that governments and power sit on a massive amount of information that will never see the light of day though it appears that more people could have read these memos than read any US newspaper. And that whistleblowing is crucial to journalisms efforts to shine light where it should be shone.
But theres a rough and ready regulator in traditional whistleblowing. It usually happens when someone on the inside has some value outraged by what they see. Powers hypocrisy; institutional injustice;