Bradley Manning, and What it Means for Journalism


Today’s online search for journalism news turned up three seemingly very different stories. The first and most prominent piece, published on the Huffington Post, was titled A Whole New Kind of Journalism? A Dissenting View” (July 17, 2013). This article argued against the much-hyped assertion that journalism is dying due to the “information age.”

Next on my feed, was The Guardians article, Bradley Manning ‘aiding the enemy’ charge is a threat to journalism” (July 19, 2013). This piece took the position that laws written to prosecute whistle-blowers are threatening a journalist’s ability to report on controversial, important topics.

Finally, NPR published ‘American Journalism Review’ To Quit Printing; Go Online-Only” (July 17, 2013). The headline of that article is pretty self-explanatory.

What do these three completely different pieces have in common? All three, in their diverse ways, are trying to document and/or explain this undeniable shift that’s happening in journalism.

Which piece does the best job pinpointing journalism’s dramatic tidal shift?

Well, personally, I think they all make valid points.

The Huffington Post piece by Thomas Kent (the Associated Press’ deputy managing and standards editor) argues that there’s still a place for traditional journalism in our ever-changing media landscape. While I may not believe as fervently that traditional journalism remains intact, the piece made some very valid points.

“According to Pew, on a given day fewer than a fifth of Americans — and a third of regular social network users — see news on social media,” wrote Kent.  “The vast majority of the population — as we’ve said elsewhere — still expects mainstream media to create a coherent, reliable version of the news that can be consumed in a reasonable time.”

NPR’s piece by Mark Memmott reported on the fact that the journalism staple, The American Journalism Review will cease being published in print form and switch to only being an online publication. This seemingly innocuous fact does indeed symbolize the shift that journalism is undergoing.

The Guardian piece by Yochai Benkler talks about a different kind of attack on or shift in journalism.

This issue of course is Bradley Manning’s controversial “aiding the enemy” charge. I’ve written about the journalistic implications of the Bradley Manning case before, and made my opinions very clear. If we prosecute every journalist who questions military actions, then who is there to keep them  in check?

It is widely known that a big part of the reason the public turned against the Vietnam War was because of brave journalists and photojournalists reporting on the atrocities being committed. It appears that the US government is taking measures to ensure this public dissent won’t happen again.

But what, if any, effect does the Bradley Manning case have on internet journalism?

The conclusion to Kent’s piece in the Huffington Post piece was this: “A journalistic system based solely on a ‘network,’ without its own centers of power and credibility, could be chillingly easy for authorities to control.”

Considering Bradley Manning uploaded his files to a “network,” and is now under attack for aiding the enemy, when he was a fine soldier who did nothing of the sort, signifies the real threat to journalism

The real threat is the government’s quest to control the information the public is allowed to know. This doesn’t signify the death, or the end of journalism, but rather a seismic shift. It’s now a journalist’s responsibility to be brave, investigate, and get to the truth, regardless of the potential consequences. So young, aspiring journalists, please hang in there. We need you now more than ever.

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