opening shot

Opening Shot

Notes on 2010, the year of WikiLeaks
January 8, 2011

It began in April with the release of a video showing Apache helicopter pilots killing civilians, including two Reuters employees, after apparently mistaking cameras for weapons, and ended in December with five of the world’s most respected print outlets publishing valuable reporting based on a trove of 260,000 U.S. diplomatic cables. This Year of WikiLeaks roiled the news equation and will continue to do so, even if WikiLeaks can’t manage to continue to produce documents on such a scale. As the U.S. government investigated possible criminal charges against Julian Assange, the organization’s public face, journalists around the world rightly began to worry about what such a prosecution would mean for everyday national security reporting. The U.S. has never tried to convict a journalist for publishing classified information, and any attempt would be a threat to our grand tradition of a free press. Meanwhile, the site’s vault to prominence has raised critical, tangled questions beyond press law—about the true goals of transparency and about the value of journalists. In late December, Clint Hendler, our WikiLeaks watcher, grappled with the site’s impact. You can find his piece, and a link to CJR’s comprehensive WikiLeaks coverage, here.

The Editors are the staffers of the Columbia Journalism Review.