WikiLeaks’s own presentation of the documents, for their part, is fairly straightforward, presented en masse with a “reading guide” but without any analysis. As for why WikiLeaks targeted three news outlets, rather than simply publishing the information on their own Web site and making it widely available for everyone? Jay Rosen points to an interview WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gave last October, in which he argued that the more widely available a story is, the less likely that journalists will want to cover it.

“It’s counterintuitive,” he said then. “You’d think the bigger and more important the document is, the more likely it will be reported on but that’s absolutely not true. It’s about supply and demand. Zero supply equals high demand, it has value. As soon as we release the material, the supply goes to infinity, so the perceived value goes to zero.”

All three newspapers also conducted interviews with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which the Times presents in a fairly straightforward sidebar article, The Guardian presents as a video online, and Der Spiegel posts as a Q & A transcript. The Times also posted videos of a press conference Assange gave in London, on its “At War” blog. These different formats emphasize different aspects of this still relatively enigmatic figure. For instance, The Guardian’s video shows Assange in a beige shirt against a white background, speaking quietly and blinking sleepily through uncontroversial epithets like “it is the role of good journalism to take on powerful abusers.” His interview transcribed in Der Spiegel, on the other hand, highlights a much more tweet-worthy line: “I enjoy crushing bastards.”



*Update: this sentence previously misstated the length of the Guardian timeline as five years, not six. The error has been corrected.

Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner