The City University Debate ‘Too Much Information?’

Julian Assange, David Aaronovitch, and Jonathan Dimbleby debated this topic in London today. I wasn’t there, and there was no live feed, so this is all based on comments tweeted by the audience, mostly City students. In retrospect, this may have been the interesting part, since the speakers seem to have just recycled old topics. This time we get an insight into what the audience thought. So here are what the predominant tweets said, and my opinions as answers. The tweets and the speakers have not been credited as I do not want to attribute a quote to the wrong person. It is hard to tell from such a small sample, but the audience seemed very unimpressed with Assange. From the tweets, I’m not getting any good reason for that, it would have been very nice to have a live feed.

The dominating tweets before the event were about the ‘irony’ that there was no recording or pictures allowed at a transparency forum. There is nothing ironic about it. Please review personal privacy and public organization transparency.

Really, really, really poor research skills! From the funny ones like calling Wikileaks, Wikipedia, not knowing Julian Assange’s name, thinking his hair change was new, and probably not recognizing his baritone, to the mildly alarming ones below.

He won’t give a detailed answer as to how they redacted the documents. He has spent the entire summer describing that (by code). If there were any that were missed, that was the fault of the US military for very carelessly putting out informants’ names in wrongly classified documents and improperly concealed.

He released Sarah Palin’s personal emails. They were of public interest because she had been using her private email account to send public office emails and circumvent transparency. The emails selected for publication by wikileaks proved that.

Who funds Wikileaks? Independent organizations do know and review this.

There were a whole lot of items that were apparently answered by Assange saying the media didn’t do this either. He is correct. If Wikileaks is to be held to journalism standards, then we all get to decide what those standards are, and the media has to be held to them too. They are a lot farther off from any standards at the moment than Wikileaks. Assange apparently said, newspapers are very rarely accountable and when they are, it’s only to very wealthy people who can use the law. Correct.

Wikileaks is not accountable to the public as a whole, just a small number of associations that fund them. Apparently this is unlike the rest of the media who are accountable only to the advertisers that dictate content? “Exactly – if one rich bastard funds wikileaks does that make it accountable?” Like, umm, Lord Conrad Black, Rupert Murdoch?

‘We as a society may think that we don’t want everything put out there’. We, as a society, have been pretty repulsed by the mainstream media too.

Inequalities of the leaks – ‘China will learn more about the US military from your leaks than vice versa.’ China does not have a military presence in 110 countries, China’s military spending is not greatly more than the entire rest of the world combined, etc., etc..

Aaronovitch asserts that Assange is no longer the underdog – he is powerful. And he must be responsible and accountable. Not unless Assange controls a military that is currently dominating 110 countries. Last I checked, he was just one guy and entitled to both privacy and the right to protect himself.

So, at the moment, I’m not really seeing what was so off putting in Assange’s answers. Links to good articles, or, best of all, a transcript would be greatly appreciated.

Updates: I am updating with articles written about the debate as I find them. Assange is an interesting character to follow in the media, he seems to bring out all of the worst journalistic qualities in others. Very entertaining. Contributions very welcome.

The Sydney Morning Herald: (This is actually an AP article, picked up by almost all of the mainstream media that have covered the topic. The Herald is of course owned by Rupert Murdoch, who employs David Aaronovitch) Recycled every smear that has ever been made by anyone about Assange or Wikileaks under the guise of “reportedly”, “was quoted”, and “critics claim”. Provided detail about each allegation, but reduced Assange’s rebuttals to “lashed out”, “fighting back”, “disputed”, “claiming”, “accused”, and “rejected claims that his group was obsessed”. The grand finale is “WikiLeaks’ site is currently down, citing maintenance issues.”

journalism.co.uk This is a fair job. It sounds like there really was nothing new covered, and it details Assange’s responses.

George Brock  A City University professor? He certainly seems to be the source of most of the opinions and background knowledge of most of the tweeting above. His students call this article “incisive”, “insightful”, and “cracking”. Concludes, “Worse, from the Assange viewpoint, I think that societies construct ways in which they balance disclosure and discretion and that these are rules, however much disputed, on which civilised life depends.” Apparently, what we are fighting here is called “civilised life”. Do you hear that, middle east?

Prospect Magazine This is a sort of personality sketch of the debate, and a light, ok read with really nothing in it. Was there really nothing said?

The Telegraph has a fair and bare account, detailing only Assange’s responses and not anything from the other speakers. So it is fair that the title is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange heckled by audience. It ignores the fact that David Aaronovitch was heckled as well, but it doesn’t mention him at all. Nice to see someone not just reprint the AP article, but this is hardly worth writing at all.

Rixstep has given very good detail of what was left out of the AP article and most other reports.

Not getting through at all. Another journalism student: “For example, cabinet meeting minutes are exempt from FOI because they would make it impossible for the cabinet to be candid if the minutes were made public. So we decide that it’s better to not have access and transparency in that case so we can have a functioning and strong debate and not just the prime minister’s unchecked will.” but “Assange was arguing that it would make it more difficult for Wikileaks to operate if they were totally transparent, and of course it would but that’s the price you pay for transparency because the benefits outweigh the detriments.” Well, we can’t really expect anything new from someone who titled their piece The curious case of Julian Assange can we? Aww, flattered!

David Aaronovitch has also written a piece which is unfortunately censored by a pound for the Times. It is a very strange piece. In it he develops “Stockholm Syndrome” (during a debate), wants to protect Assange, finds him “unbelievably attractive” and “fascinating”. “Assange penetrates everyone else’s mystery, but refuses to allow anyone to penetrate his. Which, of course, drives us mad with thwarted desire, so we try all the harder. We want to solve him.” This might help.

21 thoughts on “The City University Debate ‘Too Much Information?’

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The City University Debate ‘Too Much Information?’ | GeorgieBC's Blog -- Topsy.com

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  3. Sounds like the budding journalists of tomorrow have already signed up to be lazy hacks who fact check via cursory Google searches. It also appears their training is aiding them in internalising the interests of hegemonic power as their own.

  4. It was an enlightening, if rather frustrating, experience to follow the live-tweeting of this event. Enlightening because it gave me a glimpse into the work ethic followed by the students of a reputable school of journalism. Let me state first that I am not a journalist, and that I would expect those whose job it is to inform the public to adhere to more stringent standards than a member of the regular public.

    Having said that, allow me to illustrate one of more egregious examples of unprofessionalism from last night. A self-described newspaper journalism MA student at City U., writing on topics including politics and media, posted a tweet to the effect that Assange’s huge ego led him to make the ridiculous claim that the Pentagon has a full-time WikiLeaks war room. As many of us already know, there are a few problems with that statement:
    (a) The Pentagon does in fact have such a war room and has officially spoken to the media about it.
    (b) The subject was discussed recently and at length in the media.
    (c) A “politics and media” journalist attending a WikiLeaks event would reasonably be expected to have some background knowledge on the organization and recent events surrounding it.
    (d) If the journalist did not have that information, he should have fact-checked the claim when it was presented. A simple Google search would have sufficed for that purpose (e.g., search for “Wikileaks Pentagon war room”).
    (e) If the journalist did not have the time to fact-check the information, he should not have announced to the public at large that the WikiLeaks founder made a false claim.
    (f) He most certainly should not have embellished that statement by attacking Assange’s character.

    The statement was even retweeted in the two minutes it took me to look up source material and point the poster to the relevant links (e.g., Philip Shenon’s original report). Hours later, the person deleted his tweet and grudgingly admitted that he “might have been wrong,” but not without noting that it “Still sounds like something [Assange] would have made up. Dude thinks he’s in an episode of the xfiles.” This is apparently sufficient justification for the appaling lack of professionalism displayed.

    Bravo! Work ethic? What work ethic?

  5. Terrific summary, Georgie. Surviving that “liveblog” with you, Lyn, Rick, and a few others was an honour, if not exactly, um, fun.

    I agree with Lyn — I was even more shocked by that tweet-sneer from a student about the Pentagon than I was about the comments about the hair and the voice. In the first place, I would assume such an operation existed anyway, given the earlier leaked document setting out U.S. intentions, but the story of General Carr’s war room got big play in the major media at least a month ago.

    The public story seems to swing wildly between “JA is making up self-aggrandizing fantasies” and then, when there’s proof of a planned offensive, hyperventilating profiles of the government officials who huff and puff against him and WL. Where is the space for a sober appreciation of what WL actually does and why it is important?

    tomi at Nicholas Mead’s place was actually there last night and has done a very useful and somewhat encouraging summary — the audience apparently weren’t all as clueless as the tweeters seemed to be.

  6. @Max Forte Thank you very much, for the visit and the reference.

    @Anonymous Honestly, I don’t think they googled at all. They were so cohesive in their adherence to their professor’s opinions, it was like they had first heard of wikileaks in a lecture that afternoon. People were calling Julian ‘Jason’. And Assange ‘Lesage’. The student whose blog I linked above misspelled ‘JuliEn’ in his blog link, then corrected, presumably after he cut and pasted my title. I wonder if they will get better over time? Not without a lot of monitoring … but hopefully they will get that.

    @Lyn Wow. The standard is not being set very high, is it? But they will be in the work force soon, and then maybe we can set it a little higher for them.

    @skdadl Yes, several commented that Assange’s manner left something to be desired. I expect he probably thought that if he went to a university the audience would be more open, intelligent and less likely to just repeat the same mindless inanities. How depressing to see the same questions and the same illogical judgements from students.

    So who is the AP reporter, Sylvia Hui, is that her personal slant or one that she was directed to take, what was the motivation for that smear? (I don’t think she even needed to be at the debate to write that – was she?)

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  8. Well Hello. Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog inviting me to “discuss the discussion” only for me to arrive and find that you’ve patronised my comments and, worse still, you’ve swapped around two sentences in a paragraph – and missed out a qualifying clause – to make it look like I said something I didn’t. That’s a very sneaky thing to do; almost something a lazy journalist from the mainstream media might do?
    For the record, here is my paragraph in full:

    Transparency is not a goal in itself, we demand it and we use it to ensure that there is no abuse of power in a democracy. Assange was arguing that it would make it more difficult for Wikileaks to operate if they were totally transparent, and of course it would but that’s the price you pay for transparency because the benefits outweigh the detriments. We can sometimes strike a balance; For example, cabinet meeting minutes are exempt from FOI because they would make it impossible for the cabinet to be candid if the minutes were made public. So we decide that it’s better to not have access and transparency in that case so we can have a functioning and strong debate and not just the prime minister’s unchecked will.

    Also, to clear up a few things. The event was not organised by wikileaks. It was organised by Index on Censorship, who invited Julian Assange to take part. I actually agree with the idea that it’s not “absurd” or “ironic” that photos and filming; as Jonathan Dimbleby explained, JA requested that there be no media so that it didn’t turn into a press conference. I’m fine with that. It means that he can be more candid and we can get a better debate – actually that reasoning sounds familiar…

    Secondly, although there were a lot of students there, it was held in a large lecture theatre which holds over 300 people. The audience was NOT “mostly journalism students”. I would say it was around 50/50. I’m a journalism student at City, our department is quite small and close knit and I can at least recognise people’s faces who are students there. Most of the people tweeting were students, granted, but to take a small sample as representative of the whole is, again, “lazy journalism,” MSM etc.

    Thirdly, this point about research skills. It was not an assignment and it was not for a story for me and for the 15 or so students who were sat nearby to me. I came with a sense of curiousity to see a debate about censorship and security. It was not a debate about Julian Assange or Wikileaks, but for most people, for obvious reasons, he was the most interesting part of it. I immidiately suspected the “pentagon war room” thing sounded like bollocks, exactly because it sounds mental, but Dimbleby and Aaronivitch didn’t really react so I took it as truth; some people didn’t. I think you’re mistaking “not doing any research” with “really, really, really poor research skills.”

    To respond to the Lyn’s comment above that “I would expect those whose job it is to inform the public to adhere to more stringent standards than a member of the regular public.” I do too. I agree with you. People shouldn’t immediately denounce a claim without checking, but he admitted his error which is something, although he should have left the original there for verification. Although, for most people there watching, their job that night was not to inform the public. It was to be an engaged and curious audience member.

    I’m not one for massive back-and-forths on blogs but you called me out a little bit here, as well as my colleagues and my school, so I thought I’d put a few points up in reply in the pursuit of democracy and the open exchange of ideas.
    I think a couple of time that you’ve done what people often accuse journalists of doing. You’ve made an assumption based on the little evidence you’ve seen and, as it suits your agenda, you haven’t bothered to read around any more or check to see if what you’re alleging stands up to scrutiny.

    And last thing – I did misspell Julian as Julien, you’re right. It was a typo from being tired first thing in the morning, but I hold my hands up – no excuse. I caught it just after I clicked post and I don’t know how to change it in the link. I will say it’s hardly the world’s worst error. Also, I’m pretty sure you didn’t invent the idea of “The curious case of….” There was this pretty massive film called “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” that I think got there first. It is hardly a William Blake-style storke of divine inspiration to swap a relevant name into a film or book title that already has a name in it. It is bizarre to think that I stole your title. I had literally no knowledge of your, nor your blog’s, existence until you commented on mine.

  9. @ Peter: “I think you’re mistaking “not doing any research” with “really, really, really poor research skills.””

    Oh. So actually things are much worse than some of us thought. Well, thank you for the clarification!

      • Peter, she has a point. Are you saying you did no research before you wrote the blog entry that was supposed to promote thoughtful discussion? And this makes it better?

      • Peter, I do understand that you and your colleagues did not think of yourselves as reporters, but as audience members. However, in the circumstances where City U. and Index on Censorship posted your tweets as the official “liveblog” of the event, you were, for all intents and purposes, “informing the public.” Add to this that the profiles of many of the posters said “journalist” or “journalism student” and you might understand why the audience would hold you to a certain standard with regards to your de-facto reporting of the event.

        However, personally, I find a problem with the fact that you think it is okay to attend such an event without any prior knowledge or research. Should all events be “An introduction to…,” just because the audience probably doesn’t make the effort to at least learn the basics? Or conversely, if the debate topics are too specialized, what would you hope to understand from them if you don’t have any background? What would be achieved by anyone under these circumstances?

        As I said, I am not a journalist. However, when I do go to such panels or conferences, or even meet someone who works in a certain area, I try to learn something about it beforehand (preferably a very substantial something). This is so that:
        (a) I wouldn’t ask stupid questions, or something that has been discussed and explained ad nauseum before. Wasting people’s time is useless, but more importantly disrespectful.
        (b) I would have the context that would allow me to understand the nuances and references in the speaker’s statements.
        (c) I would be able to ask interesting, pointed questions to address relevant topics.

        All in all: doing research is a prerequisite in order to get the most out of such events (or anything, really). What would you hope to gain by showing up uninformed?

  10. Hi Peter, thanks for your answers.

    Yes, I swapped the order of two of your sentences, and lost absolutely none of your meaning, so it was a perfectly fair thing to do. They are still two complete thoughts, written by you, that represent a massive logic fail and a complete reversal of the principles of transparency and privacy in a democracy. Can you answer that, please?

    Did someone somewhere say the event was organized by Wikileaks? I stated throughout the piece that I was only relying on the tweeters, who seemed to be mostly City students, and also qualified “It is hard to tell from such a small sample”. You say “The audience was NOT “mostly journalism students”.” Who or what are you responding to and quoting? Actually, that goes for most of your quotes?

    I do not understand how this not being an assignment means you do not have to research the truth of your statements before you stick them onto the internet. I think most 10 year olds understand they are going to be called on their internet errors, why not journalism students?

    If the wikileaks war room sounds ‘mental’ to you, you really need to improve your reading material. There is apparently a whole world out there that you do not have a feel for, and you plan on making a career of writing about it.

    No, of course I didn’t invent “The curious case of….”, any more than the movie did. But since the title appeared in both the news feed you were tweeting in, and on Wikileaks’ recent twitter comments, if you had not seen it, the lack of research into a topic you were writing an extensive post on, and demanding answers to questions that could have been answered with very little research, would be worse than the plagiarism. Give it up.

    I think a lot of the tweeting students have missed the point of why you were being criticized. It is because one, you aspire to be the media which is currently demanding the special privilege of standing between the populace and information, and you have shown yourselves to be horribly underqualified for that privilege. Two, you turned what should have been an exciting and informative debate into a sad old rehash of the same tired questions from last summer, and blamed the speaker for being too bored with your own lack of research to make that exciting for you. Three, you keep demanding that other people present you with answers that are sitting right on your laptop … and you want to be the people gathering information for the populace.

    If you, or anyone else, do not understand why journalism standards are about to come under a huge amount more pressure, start researching freedom of information topics.

  11. The Pentagon war room has been all over the major media for at least a month. General Carr and all that stuff. Started with Philip Shenon at the Daily Beast and was then picked up by everyone. Not going to bother finding the link — do your own research.

    Those of us following internationally had no way of knowing what was happening in the room except through the tweets coming from the students, who seemed utterly clueless. They hadn’t seen a photo of Assange for two months, if ever. They didn’t know about General Carr at the Pentagon. They didn’t know JA’s voice, in spite of the fact that it’s all over YouTube and has been for at least a year. What were they doing taking up space?

  12. To restate what I said on twitter, I have a great deal of respect for Peter Newlands, who not only wrote a thoughtful article looking for more information on this topic, but also was courteous enough to come over here and defend his points. That is the type of interactive journalism I think we are all trying to encourage, yes?

    He has stated on his post that his comments are not working. He had asked for answers to the following questions. Anyone? (I think I’ve provided my own answers above to most of this.)

    “The things that I think we still need a decent answer to:

    1. What was the method for minimising risk to informants/sources etc. named in the Afghan war logs? Assange said it was long and people weren’t interested even after a number of people had asked about it.

    2. Is the purpose of circumventing censorship in itself enough of a reason to publish any information? This was basically the reason Assange stated for the publication of the address of the founder of PunterNet, a website that rates prostitutes, who is, in the end, a private citizen.

    3. Does the public donations model provide decent enough checks and balances on Wikileaks? I think that although he said the biggest ever donation was 20,000 euros, it’s entirely possible for one major donor to bankroll the whole thing and then the public voice ceases to have importance.”

  13. I’ve read all this and some of the points you’ve made are fair and I’ll respond to them. Some of them I still dispute and will respond to them too.

    I was just about to launch into a hopefully helpful and courteous response, but I actually have to go to work now (being a bloody student etc.) so I’ll post again sometime in the next day.

  14. @ Peter, I made some comments about the conference after I attended here:
    http://nicholasmead.com/2010/08/21/how-to-smear-a-hero/#comment-2717

    This experience has left me bewildered. How can a liberal education in journalism leave behind so many people who don’t understand?

    How can you take a position calling for “transparancy” in anything connected to wikileaks? Let me ask you one question, since you seem oblivious to what hacker culture is.. Would Jack Anderson have considered transparacy fair game in his work?
    Can’t wait to hear your reasoning.

  15. Hello everyone,

    Sorry for the slight delay, life got in the way a bit. Anyway a couple of thoughts and then I’ll probably have to go because I’ve got to go to a debate about phone hacking tonight and show the world the paucity of my journalistic skills again.

    I think the best thing to do is just go down through the comments and respond to the points individually as well as throwing in anything else that I think adds to the debate.

    So @Lyn, “doing no research” of course makes it better if you’re worried about the journalistic standards. It is incredibly easy to fix that problem, i.e. do some research than it is to fix having poor research skills. Neither is a good thing but one is obviously better, surely.

    @GeorgieBC: Ideally I would have read everything there is to know about Julian Assange and Wikileaks beforehand. Ideally I also would have read everything to know about David Aaronovitch the other person on the panel. I’m not sure how many Assange supporters criticising me and others for poor research etc, and it is just Assange supporters, have a full knowledge of Aaronovitch’s position and writings.
    I did do research before I posted thie blog, and I don’t think you’ll find anything on their that’s factually wrong, maybe plenty that you disagree with but that’s a different thing. I also think it is still possible to have a thoughtful discussion without knowing everything. People can point stuff out and you can adjust and debate and converse forward, it is a terrible disease of the internet that people so fiercely criticise mistakes – thankfully GeorgieBC you haven’t been guilty of this although there’s a mad guy on my blog whose “temper has been tried to the max” which made me chuckle a bit.

    @Lyn again: The liveblog from Index on Censorship didn’t ask me if they could use my Twitter feed but seeing as it’s supposed to be a public medium and it was their event I suppose its within their rights to do so. In terms of my informing the public, it was never my intention but I think that most people can recognise opinion and distinguish it from fact. People’s opinion, not mine in this case, that Julian Assange was “evasive” can’t be in itself wrong can it? You can disagree with it if you want but it’s not wrong. If they say like the example given somewhere that Assange made up the war room stuff then that’s a factual error, but if they say, for example, “I think he’s missing the point about X” then that you can’t get upset about it.
    There is a big issue here about the impact that new media, citizen journalism etc has on the traditional task of reporting. I went to a lecture given by Len Downie who used to be the executive editor of the Washington Post who talked about this topic exactly. You’ve said that I was de-facto reporting the event. It’s an odd thing for me to hear that because I didn’t think I was and also, most of my tweets were opinion or jokes. It comes back to this idea of factual errors versus things you disagree with. You have a right to bemoan journalistic standards w/r/t factual errors but not opinions. I think.

    I didn’t attend without any prior research, I’m actually a pretty smart guy and was slightly offended by the tone of this point and a few patronising others.
    The topic of the event was Security and Censorship in the age of Wikileaks. I actually know quite a bit about censorship, I know a little about security and I knew a little about Wikileaks, now I know a lot more about Wikileaks. However, I do think it’s perfectly OK to attend an event like this without any prior knowledge or research. People don’t know stuff automatically, you have to learn about it through reading. It is ridiculous to suggest that this couldn’t be a place where someone learnt about this topic for the first time. Who are any of you to decide that? Who gave you the right to draw that line?
    By the way, the debate topics weren’t too specialised at all. I understood everything that was said. Some of it was more philosophical, about the nature of censorship for example. Some of it was more specific, about media ownership (of which I know a great deal, more than most leymen anyway) and about particular issues surrounding Wikileaks. I was never lost, there was never a time I didn’t follow what was being discussed.
    Not every event should be an introduction to x and neither was this but people should still be allowed in without having to prove their knowledge at the door. That’s just pompous and self-important.

    When I go to things like this I do try and do a bit of reading beforehand too. As much as is feasible. I didn’t ask a stupid question. However, i’ve found that the people who ask the stupidest questions at events like this are the ones who consider themselves experts on the topic. They do statement questions where they waffle on about it and take minutes to get to the point. It is always the same type of sneery, snobbish look-at-me-i-know-more-about-this-than-you types that the chair has to hurry up and ask a question. There were a few of those at the Index night. That wastes people’s time and is disrespectful to those who came in the spirit of curiosity and wanted to learn something.
    Context and Nuances, you’ve got me there with the War Room thing. I thought that was rubbish and it turned out it wasn’t. Mea Culpa. Although nowhere have I said that it wasn’t true publicly, not on my blog, not on twitter or anywhere else.

    To sum up, I didn’t turn up uninformed. I have a pretty good understanding of the general topic, not as much as you think I should have but that’s not incredibly important to me. I understood what was said and came to different conclusions to you about it.

    Back to @GeorgieBC. You did change the meaning because your way round there is a logical flaw but my way round there isn’t. I didn’t reverse the principles of transparency, I said that it makes life difficult, which it does, but we accept that as the price for the ideal and then I said that sometimes total transparency isn’t appropraite and that makes it more difficult to check on our government’s etc but that is the price we pay for, in this case, thorough debate and dissent in the heart of government.
    The point is that the ideal is sometimes not workable, you try and go as far in its direction as possible but sometimes you have to strike a balance. This happens in all things, this is the principle behind NICE, for example. We’d like to have all the drugs there are, but some are too expensive and don’t provide enough benefit for how much they cost. It is very sad for the people who are told they can’t have them but you have to think about the whole population who use the NHS rather than just the few who need the expensive drug. I’m not saying in no times are expensive drugs worth it, but you strike a balance etc etc.

    I didn’t say anything about privacy. Apart from in my blog where I said the guy who runs punternet is entitled to his privacy which Wikileaks removed. So I don’t know what you mean by complete reversal of the principle of privacy in a democracy. For the record, Julian Assange’s private life is none of my business but Wikileaks is not the same as his private life. In the cases where the two overlap then I would tend to err on the side of privacy because it’s not an elected government and is still a private organisation but I imagine there might be some cases where it would be in the public interest fo him to suffer an invasion of privacy.

    I’m not sure anyone said that the event was organised by Wikileaks but I got the impression that people thought it was either organised by Wikileaks or was about “Wikileaks” in itself. I just wanted to provide the fact that it was an index on censorship event to explain a little about why people turned up without a detailed, complete working knowledge of Wikileaks doings and dealings.
    I shouldn’t have put quote marks around “mostly journalism students”, I’m looking back at it now and I can’t remember why I did that. So fair cop, I was wrong there. I wasn’t quoting anyone but just giving my impression.
    I think that’s the only quote I’ve put up that isn’t from this particular blogpost and subsequent comments. I have researched the truth of my statements. I don’t think there’s anything I’ve said either on here or in my original post that is untrue.

    As for reading material, I wish I could read every book and website there is but I can’t so I do my best. There is plenty about the world out there I could tell all of you that would make your eyes pop i’m sure but I’m not crowing about it and patronising. Here is my current reading list for this semester:

    Anna Mckane, Newswriting
    Chris Frost, Reporting for Journalists
    Sally Adams, Interviewing for Journalists
    Jenny MacKay, The Magazines Handbook
    Andrew Boyd, Broadcast Journalism: Techniques of Radio and TV
    Jim Beaman, Interviewing for Radio
    FW Hodgson, The New Subediting
    Sadie Plant, Zeros and Ones
    Tim Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web
    Dan Gillmor, We the media
    Lev Manovich, The Language of new media
    James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of crowds
    Malcom Gladwell, The Tipping Point
    Chris Anderson, The Long Tail
    Jakob Nielson, Designing web usability

    We are required to read a newspaper a day on my course. I also read regularly the new yorker, the new statesman, the economist, the spectator, vanity fair and I’m also doing advanced french so I read Le Figaro or Liberation about once a week. I also try and read a bit of fiction to stop me going mental, although I’m on the rate of about 5 pages a week in my current book.

    I would love to improve my reading material but what should I read? Should I trust any of the thousands of voices on the internet suggesting I don’t know enough about x or y or z or any of the other million things that are out there?

    I still don’t get the “curious case” thing. I didn’t invent it, you didn’t invent it. David Fincher probably didn’t invent it. I didn’t know about the Index news feed. It was nothing to do with me. I was tweeting from my blackberry from one of the rows in the lecture theatre. A live twitter feed was not shown in the room. I didn’t have a laptop with me I didn’t see it.
    The point I was addressing was this: “Well, we can’t really expect anything new from someone who titled their piece The curious case of Julian Assange can we? Aww, flattered!”

    Your final three points.
    One: I am underqualified, horribly or otherwise, right now for that priviledge. I am just starting my second of three years at university. It’s like being outraged that a medical student can’t perform surgery yet. I’ll get better, some of my colleagues will, some of them won’t. The ones that don’t won’t get jobs.
    Two: The question that I referred to, about accountability and specifically the method for informant protection, was not a question from the floor. It was David Aaronovitch’s first question. He is a very respected and seasoned political commentator and journalist and also not afriad to admit when he gets things wrong or doesn’t know something. I’m sorry that I didn’t see Assange answer the questions from last summer (link?) but he refused to answer on the night, he didn’t say I’ve gone over this before with x, look it up. He said it was long and complicated and no-one was interested. I can tell you there were lots of people interested in it. Also, fuck him if he was bored. He was invited to an event and knew there would be questions. It’s his responsibility to engage his audience. If you’re calling out people for not doing research, I’m calling out Assange for that.
    Three, the only information I’ve asked for is that method, which others asked for too. Journalists provide links to useful information in their stories on websites and blogs, I have done so in my blog. To those people saying do your own research, why don’t you help me out a bit? What do you lose? You moan that people aren’t informed, so just point me in the right direction and I’ll have a look. If the only thing you want is people to have the information by saying “I’m not going to bother finding the link – do your own research” you’re actually making it more difficult to achieve what you want.

    I know a lot about freedom of information. I’ve been involved with FOI stories in national newsrooms and worked with senior editors and media lawyers. Journalism standards have been under pressure since Lord Beaverbrook launched the Daily Mail.

    A couple of quick things before I finish (I know this is a long post):

    You’ve said that you have a great deal of respect for me, although we don’t know each other so I don’t know why. I mean, I think I’m ace, but I can’t see why you do.
    However the language you’ve used doesn’t show respect, they may not have been specifically aimed at me but they were at the City University journalism students, of which I am one.
    “presumably after he cut and pasted my title. I wonder if they will get better over time?”
    “The standard is not being set very high, is it?”
    “I expect he probably thought that if he went to a university the audience would be more open, intelligent and less likely to just repeat the same mindless inanities. How depressing to see the same questions and the same illogical judgements from students.”
    “you really need to improve your reading material”
    I like this discussion we’re having but I haven’t used this type of language towards you because it’s patronising and disrespectful.

    And for the record I think that George Brock is quite arrogant and a bit of an arse and I have never been, nor have any intention of being, so cohesive in my adherence to my professor’s opinions.

  16. Peter, I was at the debate and I sensed the feelings from Aaronovitch he wrote about appareantly in that article GeorgieBC mentioned above in the Times. I could tell he was torn, he knows there is a paradigm coming outside the normal gatekeepers.

    But as far as Julian being bored or put off by reporters, that wasn’t the case at all as far as I could tell. And a lot of the people surrounding him were not what I would call professional with their cell phones.. or am I missing something?

  17. @Peter A quick skim of most of what you have written before I get to what, to me, was the one and only point I was making to you in this post.

    I would rather we didn’t get into what everyone else on the internet said to each other. I stand behind everything I have said, I have never said anything on here or twitter that I feel was rude, and I do not like being lumped with the people who were actually name calling any more than you would like being lumped with Professor Brock. The tone on this blog that you object to, I am fine with. While some of my posts are more meandering than others, the general tone of this blog is one of polite, but strong debate. People (commenters as well as I) are allowed to take strong positions and state them clearly. I (and probably they) would use a lot more words and “don’t you think?” if we were having a social evening in the pub, but we are not. And I could definitely find an equivalent amount of your phrases to object to, but I would rather not. The ‘respect’ post I made on here was a repeat of my response on twitter. Just because I am having a discussion with you on specific points does not mean I feel you should be called a variety of personal insults. That is my opinion, but I can’t stop people if they choose to do it anyway. I respect your journalism techniques for the reasons I stated.

    Re. the reading material, since you asked … I understand that it is probably not at all feasible to cram more in right now, but yes, I do think you should be looking at some of those thousands of people on the internet. I love books, but where are the blogs you are covering? Here is an article accusing five US bloggers of “bringing down the Obama presidency”. They are Glenn Greenwald, John Aravosis, Digby, Marcy Wheeler and Jane Hamsher. Do you have time to read any of them? Greenwald disagrees (He is the one I would highly recommend you follow.)

    For why you should read blogs, scroll to the top of these comments and click on Max Forte’s blog. If you look at the comments on any of his more politically strong posts, you will see the often vehement and intelligent debate that ensues. For my opinion on that, read my last blog entry about The New Journalism. If you start reading blogs like Greenwald’s you will see the furious debates that follow every post. That, IMO is how a journalist ought to be taught – by an intelligent and informed audience that are going to fight every point until your research and debating skills are so good you deserve to be translating and interpreting the news for the lazy public.

    “There is a big issue here about the impact that new media, citizen journalism etc has on the traditional task of reporting. I went to a lecture given by Len Downie who used to be the executive editor of the Washington Post who talked about this topic exactly.” I’m sorry, but good grief. A lecture by the ex-ExEd of WP on new media? I know you are not in charge of your own curriculum, but following Greenwald and co. would teach you so much more. As would what you are doing right now, engaging in internet debate and writing your own blog. After hearing the views of a man who considers the new media “primarily parasites”, did you look up what the new media said to him?

    Tomi01uk tweeted you an article re. Woodward’s propaganda on Obama. I wrote about the NY Times review of it in Accountability and ‘Obama’s Wars’ – it really is not enough to read one source, especially if that source is MSM (who typically act as one source, ie, almost every publication picking up the same AP article above). Whatever has been said about Wikileaks’ impartiality, applies so much more to every traditional media outlet. Not every article has an agenda, but frankly, most do. To not read the rebuttals is like listening to one side of a debate.

    And a great many very important documents are one offs from places that you would never hear of if you didn’t watch the internet. If I was researching an ongoing news area, I would also follow the relevant hashtags on twitter, reddit, etc., amazing things get posted.

    “Also, fuck him if he was bored. He was invited to an event and knew there would be questions. It’s his responsibility to engage his audience. If you’re calling out people for not doing research, I’m calling out Assange for that.” This is an excellent point that I can’t actually answer without seeing a video of the debate. If someone who was there could answer, that would be great. For now I will say I totally agree with you. And point out that you are the only one on this post using ‘f—’ … tone?

    Re the point I was objecting to in your blog post:
    A democracy is governance by the people. The public has a default right to know everything that relates to their governance, unless it can be proved that there is a very good reason for secrecy. “For example, cabinet meeting minutes are exempt from FOI because they would make it impossible for the cabinet to be candid if the minutes were made public. So we decide that it’s better to not have access and transparency in that case so we can have a functioning and strong debate and not just the prime minister’s unchecked will.” How would it be impossible for them to be candid if the debate was public? And if these are the only standards required for a very good reason for privacy, how will anything important ever be made public?

    Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations is “Freedom from interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence.” Personal freedom in a democracy is a right unless it can be proven that the public needs the information in order to govern themselves. “Assange was arguing that it would make it more difficult for Wikileaks to operate if they were totally transparent, and of course it would but that’s the price you pay for transparency because the benefits outweigh the detriments.” No. Wikileaks is not a public organization. They are under no obligation to be transparent, and, in view of the threat both Assange and Wikileaks are under, and the power of their enemies, which at last count included almost everybody with any power at all, it is very reasonable for them to keep as many secrets as they see fit.

    Repeat from above:
    There were a whole lot of items that were apparently answered by Assange saying the media didn’t do this either. He is correct. If Wikileaks is to be held to journalism standards, then we all get to decide what those standards are, and the media has to be held to them too. They are a lot farther off from any standards at the moment than Wikileaks. Assange apparently said, newspapers are very rarely accountable and when they are, it’s only to very wealthy people who can use the law. Correct.

    Aaronovitch asserts that Assange is no longer the underdog – he is powerful. And he must be responsible and accountable. Not unless Assange controls a military that is currently dominating 110 countries. Last I checked, he was just one guy and entitled to both privacy and the right to protect himself.

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