News Picks: Wikileaks, UK election?, Election 2012, Wikipedia, Israel

Wikileaks

US journalists back away from Assange The Miami Herald reports that more and more US journalists are shunning the Wikilkeaks founder Julian Assange amid concern about the organisation’s methods of dumping documents “willy-nilly” as investigative journalist Bob Woodward put it. There are also questions as to whether Assange is actually a journalist. An interesting read.

Election 2011?

Cameron considering a snap election? – Labour MP Tom Watson speculates (some would say wildly) that the Prime Minister may call a snap election in May. Watson cites a weary Nick Clegg, an unfulfilled David Cameron and the belief by some that the Tories could win an outright majority if they called an election given the Lib Dems’ appalling poll numbers. It’s all gossip but it’s well written and thought provoking. It also hints that embattled No. 10 communications director Andy Coulsen will be gone by the end of the month.

Election 2012

The activist Republican candidates court – An interesting piece in the LA Times about the Iowa based activist whom Republicans running for the party’s presidential nomination will all court in the build up to that state’s all important caucuses that kick off the nominee race at the beginning of next year. Joni Scotter is 69, and, it seems, very important to the likes of Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich but she has voted Democrat before.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia at 10, a pioneer of global civility – Timothy Garton Ash has some words of praise for Wikipedia which turns 10-years-old this weekend. Unlike Facebook, this internet success story is not worth billions but is a fine example of a non profit organisation that “still breathes the utopian idealism of the internet’s heroic early days.”

Israel

The rise of fanatical ‘Israeli ayatollahs’ – We all know about fanaticism in the Muslim world but what of the ultra orthodox Jewish rabbis who are becoming increasingly controversial and divise in Israel. They were even involved in the recent tragic death of ex-Liverpool defender Avi Cohen.

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News Picks: Wikileaks, Health, US, Obama, O’Reilly, Howard

Wikileaks

The Man Who Spilled The Secrets – In case you missed it, Vanity Fair’s frankly brilliant account of the volatile relationship between The Guardian and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange during the before and during the release of the Afghan and Iraq War Logs and the Diplomatic cables. Best thing I’ve read all week.

State Department team works to warn people – Elsewhere in Wikileaks news, the US State Department has a designated team of people warning human rights activists, business people and foreign government officials of potential threats to their safety following the release of around 2,700 of the estimated 250,000 diplomatch cables held by Wikileaks and media organisations.

Ireland

Health insurance rise hits families Families in Ireland face a price hike of up to €1000 per year for their private health insurance. With the state of Ireland’s public health service also in disarray, many are asking where on earth is Health Minister Mary Harney whose under increasing pressure to step down at the upcoming general election or sooner.

US

Gibbs forced out by Daley?Suggestions in Washington that new White House Chief of Staff William Daley effectively ended Press Secretary Robert Gibbs time in the Obama administration. Daley’s arrival could also spell the end for White House advisor Valerie Jarrett. The guy is making early waves.

Obama v O’Reilly on Super Bowl Sunday – This should be good. Fox News firebrand Bill O’Reilly will interview the President on Super Bowl Sunday, maintaining the tradition of a presidential interview with the network broadcasting the game.

Mystery surrounds Obama novelStaying with the President and mystery surrounds the identity of the author of an upcoming novel about Obama’s White House. “O: A Presidential Novel”  by Anonymous is said to be similar to Joe Klein’s 1996 book “Primary Colours” which was loosely based on Bill Clinton’s run for the White House which later became a pretty good film starring John Travolta as Clinton.

Media

Robert Harris eulogises the late, great Anthony Howard – Worth a read for any journalist or anyone interested in a truly remarkable man who was truly brilliant at his trade, as he liked to refer to it (in other words he did not consider journalism a profession). It was delivered by the great author Robert Harris, himself once a journalist.

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That’s it have a great weekend. I’ll do a weekend edition if I can.

Wikileaks’ Afghan War Logs are a boost for print media

Plenty will be written about the content of Wikileaks’ Afghan War logs and the ramifications for the war itself. But the main findings from the documents reveal little that we didn’t already know or suspect was happening in Afghanistan.

There is an increasing use of IEDs with deadly effects, an increasing number of civilian casualties as a result, there’s a growing use of drones by US forces, a tacit involvement of elements of the Pakistani intelligence services, and a total inability of Afghan central government and security forces to get a handle on any of it, beset by corruption and incompetency in equal measure.

Of course with the amount of content made available today some interesting individual stories have emerged.The story of Combat Outpost Keating uncovered by the New York Times’ own investigation of the documents caught my eye as a tragic example of the difficulties faced by allied forces in the region.

But what’s interesting from a journalism point of view about the war logs is the fact that Wikileaks, an increasingly prominent whistle blowing website, chose to collaborate with The Guardian, The New York Times and German weekly Der Spiegel, forgoing their usual practice of putting whatever leaked material has come into their possession straight up on their own web servers.

Wikileaks founder and editor Julian Assange, recognised that they needed the help and investigative expertise of these three renowned publications to extract the real stories from the 90,000 or so documents, leaked by US army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning and probably others.

Assange described the three publications as “the best newspapers in the world for investigative research.” It shows that print media is still highly valued in the modern media environment despite the seemingly endless stream of negative stories about the decline of newspapers, mainly with cutbacks and job losses at a regional level.

On top of this the emergence of websites such as Wikileaks were seen as another nail in the coffin of print journalism. No longer would a whistleblower with sensitive information contact an investigative newspaper journalist but he would instead make contact with websites such as Assange’s who would then publish the information in its entirety online.

While local newspapers are perhaps hitting a terminal decline, today’s revelations show that at a national level the best investigative journalists, perhaps the bests journalists still ply their trade for newspapers and magazines. For an insight into how it all came about Nick Davies gives an excellent account of the story behind the story as part of The Guardian‘s coverage today.

Clearly whilst all three of the publications have made use of their online presence to present the war logs in an interesting and engaging way, their print editions will be most memorable.

Proof of that can be seen in Assange holding aloft a copy of today’s Guardian at his press conference this afternoon to show the world the results of the biggest leak in intelligence history.

On this evidence, the newspaper remains the first draft of history.

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Follow me on Twitter: @oconnellhugh