So NYTimes editor throws Assange under a bus? Of course, the Times is a Serious paper that helped the US invade Iraq so everybody should take that publication very seriously, indeed:
Is WikiLeaks a media organization, or is it something else? It’s a question with important implications, given the special protections afforded the press, but it’s one that even New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, whose newspaper has been the most prominent showcase for WikiLeaks’ document dumps, can’t seem to make up his mind about.
“I think a news organization like mine should be a little humble about trying to define who’s entitled to be called a journalist,” Keller said this afternoon at a forum on “Secrecy and Journalism in the Media Age,” hosted by Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab. “Personally, I’d advocate a fairly expansive definition.”
Asked point-blank whether that definition should be so expansive as to include Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ recently-released-on-bail frontman, however, Keller hedged.”I don’t regard Julian Assange as a kindred spirit,” he said. “If he’s a journalist, he’s not the kind of journalist that I am.”
Keller did allow that WikiLeaks “has moved more in the direction of behaving like a journalistic organization. They have gone from an absolutist view of transparency with an at least suggested motive of embarrassing or bringing down bad governments to an organization that has been leaking out the documents in a more journalistic fashion, [including] redacting them. I don’t think they’ve become my kind of news organization, but they have evolved.”
But Keller was very clear that he was not treating WikiLeaks as a fellow news entity in using their material. Whereas he described The Guardian, which supplied the Times with the most recent batch of WikiLeaks material after Assange cut the paper off, as “a partner in this,” Keller would not say the same of WikiLeaks itself. “Throughout this experience, we have regarded Julian Assange and his merry band of provocateurs and hackers as a source,” he said. “I will not say a source pure and simple, because, as any reporter or editor can attest, sources are rarely pure or simple.”
Keller said he would be disturbed to see the government attempt to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act, but not necessarily because he’d view it as an attack on press freedom. “Legality aside, it would send up a bit of an alarm signal to me,” he said. “As an editor, I find the Espionage Act a kind of scary thing in the wrong hands. It’s an abusable law.”