James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘WikiLeaks’

Columbia faculty support WikiLeaks, free press

Posted by James McPherson on December 15, 2010

The journalism faculty at one of the top j-schools in the country are urging the Justice Department not to prosecute WikiLeaks, noting that, “As a historical matter, government overreaction to publication of leaked material in the press has always been more damaging to American democracy than the leaks themselves.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. But perhaps New York Times columnist David Carr could (of course, he gets paid more for his media analysis of media than I do): This week he offers a cogent consideration of the evolution of WikiLeaks.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

WikiLeaking probably little cause for alarm

Posted by James McPherson on November 29, 2010

I understand why world leaders and some dishonest brokers of information might be upset, but, try as I might, I’m having trouble worrying about whatever “secrets” might be revealed via WikiLeaks, for at least five reasons:

First, most people are getting most of the information not via the WikiLeaks website but from established news organizations such as the New York Times and the BBC.

Second, if the Pentagon Papers and the Progressive magazine “H-Bomb” case (a framed copy of which hangs on my office wall) of the 1970s taught us anything, it’s that governments lie, and then exaggerate the nature of threats posed by the release of information.

Third, that same Progressive case and the current Iraq War demonstrated that news organizations–at least those not privy to the “secret” information–tend to buy whatever the government is selling, and to criticize the leakers.

Fourth, previous cases demonstrate that historically leakers have done relatively little harm–while governments acting secretly have done a great deal of harm.

And fifth, the idea that media organizations reveal “secret” information is largely a myth. They publish information that someone with a beef inside of government wants revealed. In the process, they show where security may need to be tightened.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »