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Anonymity of Wikileaks could be future of journalism

Last week, Wikileaks — a site that allows whistle-blowers to submit documents anonymously — released a video that shows an Apache helicopter kill a gathering of unarmed civilians in Iraq. The video is a classified military document that, as the name of the website implies, was leaked by an anonymous source, verified by the Wikileaks staff, and then published to the Internet.

Among the roles of journalists in society are to report on the actions of governments, to expose internal corruption, and to balance the power that a government holds over its citizens by exposing the truth of their actions. Yet every news organization must make choices on what to report, and how to deal with covering the government that it operates within.

Two Reuters journalists were killed in the 2007 attack shown in the video, but no Freedom of Information Act filing from Reuters was able to uncover any details about the attack. It took the protection of anonymity and a report filed from an unnamed source to bring out a truth that the American government would likely have preferred not to have been publicized.

We ask, with the Internet revolutionizing society, if this is the future of investigative journalism. This future might rely on verified, trusted sites across the Internet that protect contributors from retribution and are open to people with controversial information. Not only does this have a huge amount of potential power to create change by doing it from the outside, there is demonstrated financial support for the method. In the last week, Wikileaks has raised $150,000.

Wikileaks has, in just a few years, unearthed information from Sarah Palin’s Yahoo! account, the correspondence on climate research, and 570,000 pager messages sent during the Sept. 11 attacks. Wikileaks deserves the attention it has been getting and the respect of people everywhere who believe information should be free.