Alexandria Online

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Trust Us: We Used To Be In Print

When the editors of WikiLeaks released 90,000 pages of classified documents, they released them first to three established new outlets: The New York Times, Der Spiegel, and The Guardian. Only after these three content giants were able to analyze and comment were the raw data posted on the internet.

Ink and paper are not the elements that WikiLeaks lacked and sought in established news organizations. All three publish on the internet everything they publish in print. And some of the things they have published in print in the past have proven to be wrong.

Trust is a tricky thing. Sometimes our trust is betrayed. Trust means that you are not sure that someone is correct or telling the truth. If you already know what someone is telling you, there is no need to trust anyone but yourself. Of course, sometimes we don't even trust ourselves.

What really helps build trust is a third party, a witness, even a Notary Public. I have a friend who is a Notary Public, and have always been fascinated by the authority that comes with that little stamp press they use to notarize documents. That stamp means, "I attest, I verify, I authorize, I was there."

WikiLeaks was using these established news organizations as their notaries, their third party. WikiLeaks might be wrong; the documents might be fakes. But then all those other guys were faked out too, not just me the reader. We spread the pain around. It's one thing to look like a fool in front of everyone, it's another when everyone got fooled.

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