Thursday, September 5, 2013

NYT, Guardian, and ProPublica Join Forces

For the first time, a National Security Agency leak has been published simultaneously by three different news organizations. The New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica all joined forces following a tumultuous experience with British authorities last month.

As ProPublica made clear in their eloquent explanation, an important relationship exists between publishing leaks and protecting civil liberties:
There are those who, in good faith, believe that we should leave the balance between civil liberty and security entirely to our elected leaders, and to those they place in positions of executive responsibility. Again, we do not agree. The American system, as we understand it, is premised on the idea -- championed by such men as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison -- that government run amok poses the greatest potential threat to the people’s liberty, and that an informed citizenry is the necessary check on this threat. The sort of work ProPublica does -- watchdog journalism -- is a key element in helping the public play this role.
As we've seen lately, government abuse has finally reached a point where no one can go it alone. The lone journalist who attempts to speak truth to power is sure to fail, pulled down both by the power he attempts to hold accountable and by his own peers, who enjoy their access to government officials far too much to speak up.

Luckily, journalists are finally learning the meaning of "United we stand, divided we fall." While it is easy to call for the prosecution of a lone journalist who reports on government abuses, very little can be done about three major news organizations working together. Even if the government were to push back, we would see the alliance between journalists strengthen -- as it did following the destruction of the Guardian's hard-drives -- rather than weaken. More alliances like these are needed to keep the ball rolling toward transparency.