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The Arrest of Julian Assange Does Not Threaten The Future of Journalism

Posted on : 09-12-2010 | By : Chikodi Chima | In : Media Criticism

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Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Yesterday’s arrest of Julian Assange and the escalating harassment of his organization, Wikileaks, has proven many things, among them, the power of information, and how nasty things can get for those whose business it is to pry the lid off closely-guarded secrets.

While pundits, commentators, bloggers and the Internet as a whole debate the efficacy of the latest Wikileaks bombshell, Cablegate, one thing can be certain, Legacy Media benefits tremendously from the document dumps, while the journalists of the future have already sprinted ahead.

Wikileaks will not change journalism. Instead the fracases over Cablegate demonstrates how the economics of journalism have already changed the business of reporting, and the resultant product. If the 251,000 documents being released were originally pilfered as early as May of 2010 by Army private, Bradley Manning, as is suspected it is somewhat laughable that a group of distributed volunteers could keep such a juicy secret bottled up and away from the professional press for so long.

Organizations like Wikileaks, or groups with a similar agenda will have a role to play in the future of journalism, regardless of what happens to Wikileaks founder Assange, who is now in British custody, awaiting extradition to Sweden. However the future of journalism belongs to those who can use social media, devices like the iPad, location technologies and a suite of tools that make storytelling more rich, more communal and more locally relevant, while simultaneously empowering millions to join the conversation. That is the future of journalism, and the aim of the documentary and website of The Future Journalism Project is to capture the transformation that is underway. The future of journalism is being shaped by the convergence of tools and tales, both the medium of expression, what is now possible to express thanks to technologies that are becoming ubiquitous.

Aside from a few clever infographics and word clouds, little has been done with the information from the cables which demonstrate the power of new media story telling tools. (The term ‘new media’ is somewhat of a misnomer, as many of the tools and techniques are not new, but there are many mashups of existing technologies, as well as new tools that are being created every day that bring with them tremendous potential to change how stories are told and consumed)

Cablegate wordcloud from Fast Company