Covering the Coverage of the Diplomatic Leaks
The major outlets that received document drops from Wikileaks are covering the story in different and interesting ways.
The publication of a quarter million diplomatic communiques by Wikileaks over the weekend continues continues to dominate the headlines. Doug Mataconis first posted on it here and I commented on the potential embarrassments some of the leaked documents might cause to the Arab states of the Gulf.
Wikileaks has apparently given the document drop to leading news sources here and in Europe including The New York Times, Britain’s The Guardian, Germany’s Der Spiegel, France’s Le Monde, and Spain’s El Pais. I found the differences among the ways in which the leaks were covered very interesting.
Of the coverage by the various media outlets by far the least useful is that of the New York Times. The Times’s coverage is resolutely stuck in a gatekeeper and dead tree mode. The style of the coverage is narrative, the article is fairly lengthy, a handful of interesting communiques are highlighted, and little attempt is made at categorizing, analyzing, or otherwise summarizing the scope of the documents received.
The Times did reprint at least one actual communication here.
It may be that the Times’s editors are concerned about being the receivers of stolen goods and this has hampered their coverage. Or it may be that they are attempting to be discrete. If that’s the case, it’s a futile task since the documents are being published rather than closely held by the Times. It may be that the editors plan to dribble the information out over days or weeks to gain maximum impact or allow them to scrutinize the information more closely. Again, that’s a futile task.
Update: It may be that I should cut the Times a little more slack. According to The Guardian the NYT didn’t receive the document drop from Wikileaks but from the Guardian. The NYT may not have had the time or access to enough documents to give us better coverage.
The Guardian’s coverage is only a little better than the Times’s and similar in format. One interesting addition in The Guardian’s coverage is a live-blogging of reactions from various parts of the world to the revelations in the leaked documents.
To the coverage from the American and British news sources Spiegel Online has added several interesting and handy features. One is an interactive analysis of the documents which enables the user to hone in on the leaked documents by source, time period, and degree of classification. If the interface allowed one to actually drill down to individual documents, it would be a near-perfect user interface. Alas, it does not. Perhaps that’s planned for the future.
Spiegel also helpfully supplied links to the articles of other major news outlets on the leaks, something absent from the Times’s or Guardian’s coverage (at least in their main articles).
Compared to the Times’s coverage Le Monde’s is short and punchy, providing 14 brief paragraphs of highly factual analysis followed by a dozen or so links to other articles in Le Monde that amplified the base article with more detailed analysis of individual communications and other topics.
El Pais’s coverage resembles Le Monde’s somewhat, albeit a bit less organized. There are base articles followed by links to related articles. One interesting feature of El Pais’s coverage is that it appears to be more tailored to its readership than that of the other outlets. So, for example, there is detailed coverage of communications on Spain, Turkey, and Venezuela not found in the coverage of other outlets that I found particularly interesting. To my eye El Pais appears to have a lot more coverage of actual documents than any other news outlet.