Traditionally, Journalists have been the main (and only) source of information, but recently, journalism has been re-defined by who can filter and spread information. One of the most controversial cases of citizen participation within the media is of Bradley Manning who partook in the largest data security breach in the nation’s history when he sent classified documents to Wikileaks, the international, non-profit journalistic organization.
The controversy surrounding Manning’s case stems from the idea that he was being a whistleblower in order to inform the public of the truth. As Jeff Jarvis wrote in his article, journalism is no longer a profession, but rather a service and if this is the case, who can we trust to inform us?
Despite a shift in traditional media practices, the leaked files were still published in mainstream papers, therefore; reinforcing the traditional gatekeeping practices. It was the organizations like the Guardian and New York Times that continued to use the institutional norms. They did not have to publish the information that Bradley Manning had given to Wikileaks and these networks, but they chose to in order to inform the public; therefore, highlighting that despite new forms of participatory journalism, the networks and institutions still play a key role in gatekeeping. At the same time, what becomes controversial is that journalists do not have as much anonymity if they publish articles containing classified information and the government can punish them, as well as the news organizations.
While Wikileaks’ main purpose aims at bringing justice and truth to the world by publishing secret information, it has caused tension between various institutions and continues to create global controversies. Wikileaks motto is to enforce anonymity and wants journalists to be whistleblowers without being punished; however, the incident with Bradley Manning proved that anonymity is not always possible, and that publishing these documents may not be the best idea in spreading the truth.
Overall, the controversy with Wikileaks is still ongoing and continues to reinforce the contrast between traditional and new media influences of gatekeeping and gatewatching. The underlying issues surrounding Wikileaks involve anonymity and trust because it raises the questions of whether the whistleblowers like Bradley Manning want to be praised for telling the truth or whether they want to be punished, and whether or not the governments will limit these freedoms of speech. Journalism is no longer defined by journalists and journalistic organizations informing the public, but by people like Bradley Manning or other citizen journalists who want to have a voice. Despite the transformation between traditional and new media influences and institutions, Jarvis argues that, “There is a role for the witness, the whistleblower, and the advocate in the ‘network fourth-estate.”