Who would have thunk it would come to this?
A website run by volunteers offers three newspapers access to leaked Afghanistan material of unknown provenance, stipulating the newspapers would have to publish it on the same day and embargo it in the meantime. And the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel - three of the leading and most prestigious newspapers in the world - agree to the condition. Had they not, you can bet editors at the three papers understood, WikiLeaks would have found a willing taker elsewhere in the media world.
This morning, perusing my morning read, I read an editorial, " We needed WikiLeaks" which sort of praises the website:
"The leak of tens of thousands of Afghanistan war-related documents tells us more than the sum total of many official communiqués about the war. On balance, more disclosure is a good thing, but the leaking of raw military intelligence is a special case that requires a careful, rather than a cavalier, approach….
The leaking of military intelligence is a serious matter, but the WikiLeaks documents are improving our understanding of a long and difficult war. If governments were more forthcoming about the true nature of the Afghanistan mission, with all its flaws and in all of its complexity, the public would have less need for them."
That's true - as far as it goes. But another reason for the existence of websites like WikiLeaks is the loss of confidence on the part of many people that the mainstream media are providing them with the complete story. On many stories.
It was that perception that led to the so-called climate-gate scandal going viral in the aftermath of the Copenhagen conference. And it's that perception that leads me to wonder why the Toronto Star - a leading campaigner for the re-patriation of Omar Khadr - has not reported last week's stunning rebuke by the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal of a Khadr ruling - a ruling that it both reported and editorialized upon - by Mr. Justice Russel Zinn of the Federal Court:
In the end, the so-called climate-gate scandal turned out to be serious but much less than the sceptics alleged. On preliminary examination, most experts have concluded that there is less fire than smoke in the WikiLeaks material on Afghanistan. And perhaps there's a good explanation why the Star still has not reported that Chief Justice Blais ordered that Mr. Zinn's ruling on Omar Khadr be stayed - even though it continues to publish letters to the editor that assume that decision stills stands.
That said, the mainstream media would be wise to look at their own role in fostering the climate of suspicion that now reigns among consumers of information - consumers on all parts of the political spectrum.