WikiLeaks vs. Media with a face

There are plenty of questions that surround WikiLeaks, writes Joshua Noble in yesterday’s Toronto Star. Is anonymous leaking ethical? Does it endanger or protect? Is it democratic or anarchistic? But most of all, are we asking the right questions? “If we take a step back from the rhetoric that surrounds WikiLeaks,” writes Noble, “there is an opportunity for reflection on the importance of responsible journalism — what I call in this essay ‘journalism with a face.'”

In a democratic society, he argues, it’s particularly valuable for society to hold journalists professionally (and publicly) accountable to their publications and the public. The upside of Wikileaks, then, he continues, is its role in the public’s right to know — but there’s also a downside.

“[Its] stories have exposed government lies, human rights abuses and private sentiments and opinions. In this way, WikiLeaks has disclosed vital information to the otherwise unwitting public,” Noble writes. “The downside of WikiLeaks: Anonymity and inappropriate information disclosure.”

Canada is not immune to these effects, either. Even at home, he continues, the media’s role could become distorted by the effects of anonymous journalism.

“For democracy to continue to thrive in Canada, an accountable, honest media must flourish,” says Noble. “Without passing judgment on the complex ethical and moral questions of WikiLeaks, I hold that there is no doubt that in daily journalism practice, democracy needs a media with a face.”


“Journalism with a face leaves room for rebuttal, collaboration and dialogue — the very heart of democracy. Faceless, noncontextualized journalism cannot be rebutted or engaged in any meaningful dialogue. It comes from nowhere and has no face for healthy dialogue. From WikiLeaks we have at times seen mass frustration not simply because of the content leaked, but because there is no legitimate, fair venue for retort …

“We may not always agree with what is printed in our newspapers, but the fact that we can know the identity of the writers — and disagree with the writers — means that, as far as our media is concerned, democracy is still at work.”

You can read Noble’s full essay at the Star‘s website.