Why, in a 2,160-word article, Classified Files Offer New Insights Into Detainees, which dominates the front page of today’s New York Times print edition, is the key source of the revelations buried so deep that the reader has to guess at it?
Wikileaks, without which there would be no story, is not acknowledged until the 10th paragraph — 644 words in — long after the jump to an inside page, and then only obliquely in reference to the Obama administration’s objection to seeing the documents published. An even longer 2,360-word article, Judging Detainees’ Risk, Often With Flawed Evidence, which also begins on the front page as a sidebar, does not cite Wikileaks until the 19th paragraph, 1,244 words in.
Sure, there’s a boxed note in the print edition explaining where the trove of leaks comes from. It appears within a large double spread covering four inside pages. And yes, there’s an external citation alongside the stories on the Web site. But notice that the prominent banner above the stories omits mention of Wikileaks:
The GUANTANAMO FILES A trove of classified documents opens a window on the prison, nearly 10 years after its establishment.
Anybody who reads the mainbar and sidebar without seeing the citation, especially once the stories are archived, will have to search for the Wikileaks acknowledgment.
Just so you know: Another sidebar, As Acts of War or Despair, Suicides Rattle a Prison, buries Wikileaks in the 12th paragraph (of 19). And a 1,200-word story, Libyan, Once a Detainee, Is Now a U.S. Ally of Sorts, which is included in the series and repeatedly cites a secret Libyan intelligence document, makes no mention of Wikileaks at all, perhaps because the “Guantánamo assessment” that it does cite was not part of the Wikileaks trove. (I had to parse the story closely to tell, and I’m still not certain.)
The Guardian does no better. Its 1,137-word story, Guantánamo leaks lift lid on world’s most controversial prison, dumps Wikileaks into the 25th of 27 paragraphs. Somehow it took them 1,028 words to get to that citation.
Now I know that both The Times and The Guardian have had their problems with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, complaining that he’s a naughty boy who is insufficiently respectful of them. But c’mon.
Postscript: Apparently Assange may not have been involved in the Guantánamo leaks that The Times et al. have published. Glenn Greenwald mentions that Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former WikiLeaks associate (and a rival of Assange’s) may have been. In any case, Greenwald focuses on the importance of the leaks and more substantial journalistic shortcomings than editors pissing down their own pants.
PPS: Michael Calderone reports the backstory on the media race to publish Wikileaks’ trove of secret Guantánamo documents. It clarifies a few things … sorta.
Here’s the kicker: Over Half of 2011’s New York Times Issues Rely on WikiLeaks. Caitlin Dickson has counted. “[O]n 63 days so far this year NYT reporters have relied on WikiLeaks documents as sources for their stories,” she writes in The Atlantic. April 25 is the 115th day of the year, she points out. “And just to be clear,” Dickson adds, “we didn’t count stories that merely mentioned WikiLeaks or Julian Assange or Bradley Manning, only the ones that used documents from the site as a reporting source.” The headline alone rates a belly laugh.