Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Dealing with Wikileaks (aka How Newspapers Work)

Just got around to reading Bill Keller’s (editor of the New York Times) story on dealing with Wikileaks and it’s great. It’s a procedural story that really helps understand how a large organization like the Times deals with these sorts of things. I’ve always thought there was an opportunity for news organizations to write more of these kinds of stories and, while I might be alone in this, I’d love to read more.

There’s lots worth quoting in the story, but I particularly liked Keller’s response to the criticism that “the documents were of dubious value, because they told us nothing we didn’t already know.” He wrote:

I’m a little puzzled by the complaint that most of the embassy traffic we disclosed did not profoundly change our understanding of how the world works. Ninety-nine percent of what we read or hear on the news does not profoundly change our understanding of how the world works. News mostly advances by inches and feet, not in great leaps. The value of these documents — and I believe they have immense value — is not that they expose some deep, unsuspected perfidy in high places or that they upend your whole view of the world. For those who pay close attention to foreign policy, these documents provide texture, nuance and drama. They deepen and correct your understanding of how things unfold; they raise or lower your estimation of world leaders. For those who do not follow these subjects as closely, the stories are an opportunity to learn more. If a project like this makes readers pay attention, think harder, understand more clearly what is being done in their name, then we have performed a public service. And that does not count the impact of these revelations on the people most touched by them. WikiLeaks cables in which American diplomats recount the extravagant corruption of Tunisia’s rulers helped fuel a popular uprising that has overthrown the government.

Just downloaded the ebook this essay is adapted from and am excited to read it.

February 16, 2011