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The release of thousands of classified United States government documents by to the public has brought up questions regarding national security and media ethics.  Pfc. Bradley Manning is being accused in the leak, though he has not been charged.  Manning is thought to have played a role in a case involving the release of a video back in March showing U.S. forces killing Iraqi journalists.  He was charged in July for receiving classified information and for wrongfully accessing a government computer (Fishel).

I didn’t know anything about Wikileaks before this most recent story broke.  Looking at the website, this organization describes itself as not-for-profit group that seeks to provide the truth to the public.  One of the ways this organization accomplishes this is by receiving leaked information from people through a secure electronic drop-box.  It says what it does is important because providing this information to the public creates transparency, which reduces corruption in government and creates a better society for all (

While the truth is valuable to any journalist, other factors come into play when deciding what information to use and what information to suppress.  While people may want to know the information contained in these cables, the more important question is whether people need to know this information.  Government officials, such as Hillary Clinton, say the release of this information poses a threat to our national security and puts certain peoples’ lives in danger.  This sounds like a standard issue answer from someone in the government.  Of course the government doesn’t want the documents released.  It has its share of secrets and it doesn’t want them to get out to the public, whether national security is at stake or not.  It seems anymore that “national security” is a catchall term, and it can have far reaching effects if wielded carelessly.

Some of the documents appear to only embarrass those in the government.  If an ambassador or high-ranking U.S. official makes a comment about a foreign counterpart that can be taken negatively, and this is leaked to the public, is this really a matter of national security?  Perhaps, insofar as that official might now fear for his safety.  However, does revealing it pose a great risk to us all?  Why was such a comment made in the first place?  The real problem might be that our leaders can’t keep their mouths shut.  It seems that a person is asking for trouble if comments like these are kept in a government document.  It’s only a matter of time before the “wrong” person gets his hands on them.

I think releasing this information is ethical, in part because, as the Wikileaks site states, the information it receives is verified before being published.  In terms of the validity of the information being provided, it seems that there would be no reason to withhold it.  From a national security standpoint, it is possible that some of the documents might pose a threat, but who is going to decide which ones?  The government will make that decision, and it’s not going to pick and choose what is a threat.  Everything will be labeled a threat.  By consulting one’s conscience about the ethical ramifications of publishing these documents, it is difficult because a major stakeholder will never approve of your actions.

With that being said, I don’t know if reporters in mainstream news should rely on Wikileaks as a source of information for stories, at least not on a regular basis.  In this case, the news was major, so every media outlet was going to report on it.  Generally speaking, though, I don’t think it is a good idea.  This might seem strange given the fact that I just said it was ethical for Wikileaks to release this information, but I do have a concern about the site.  I can’t find any information about who operates it.  Under the “About Wikileaks” section, it states that accredited journalists make up part of the group that runs the site, but no one’s name is ever mentioned.  Also, because of the site’s nature, along with the flak it has taken from various government agencies around the world, the sources used in obtaining their information are concealed for security reasons.  Never revealing sources tends to diminish credibility.  If people feel they can’t trust Wikileaks, which I can’t ascertain, given that I don’t know much about the site, then using this site could also hurt the credibility of an outside journalist using Wikileaks to gather information for a story.

As I said before, however, in an instance like this where major news is breaking, and Wikileaks is the one in possession of the key information necessary to cover the story, a news outlet doesn’t have any choice but to rely on the site.  I don’t know to what extent Wikileaks normally contributes to the mainstream media, but for this story, it is spoon-feeding mainstream news sources.  According to the Cablegate Wikileaks page, only 291 of the 251,287 cables have been released so far.  This means that Wikileaks could be feeding the news cycle for quite some time as new documents are revealed to the public.

By accepting information that was illegally obtained, is controversial and that could result in legal action being taken, Wikileaks is taking a risk that other news organizations probably would not take.  In taking this chance, Wikileaks gives people the opportunity to become familiar with the site, as the mainstream media continues to cite them as the source of this information.  Add in the fact that these documents are being released a little bit at a time, and this situation could lead to the site becoming better known in time.



After watching the WDBJ7 story about the Liberty University rapper, Humble Tip, it seems like the student population has embraced him as an unofficial ambassador for the Christian university.  All of the students included in the story had good things to say about him and his song “LU Anthem.”  It appears that the students support his efforts and find him entertaining.

What is not presented very well by this story is how university administrators and faculty view Humble Tip, whose real name is Jason Lewis.  There were no school officials included in the story, so it is not possible to get a read on the university’s stance.  There are generalized statements and presumptions made that suggest the leaders of this conservative institution would not approve of this rapper’s influence over current students, potential students, and the world in general.  It is implied that Humble Tip is shaking things up and the school’s officials are stubbornly resisting his attempts to give the university a more contemporary image.

According to the school’s website, Liberty University is a private, Christian school, so it seems reasonable to think that administrators might not embrace Lewis as he portrays the school in what some might see as a negative light.  The music video is harmless enough, but the potential controversy arises from the setting in which Lewis finds himself.  Jerry Falwell, one of the most well known conservative leaders of his time, founded Liberty University after all (Liberty website).  It stands to reason that the conservative influence would lead the university to seek out more traditional methods of outreach and cause the leaders to want to uphold an image deemed more positive to them.

If I were to cover this story, I would try to get a more balanced view of the situation.  Granted, it’s not exactly a hard news piece, but the fact that it is happening where it’s happening creates questions for people to consider.  What does the Liberty University administration think about Humble Tip?  Does the university support him?  Do those in charge try to distance themselves from him?  It’s hard to say what, if anything, the university does to either endorse or admonish Jason Lewis in either a public or private way.  Perhaps the school has done nothing at all.  Maybe the school hasn’t acknowledged this situation and, therefore, has no official stance.  Without speaking to an official, there is no way to know for certain.

The story contains nothing but praise from students, but I have serious doubts that all of them feel this way.  There needs to be a balance in this regard as well.  If the reporter was going to include several students’ thoughts about Humble Tip, a viewer should expect both sides.  At times, it felt like an endorsement for Humble Tip, rather than an explanation of an unusual event taking place at Liberty.  It is an interesting story, given its uniqueness, but there is a reason why it is unique, and that point seems to be lost in this story.

I watched the music video for “LU Anthem,” and I was surprised at how well put together it is.  It actually looks like a music video one might see on television.  The basic gist of the song is an explanation of what to expect when a student enrolls at Liberty.  Humble Tip mentions the unique atmosphere of attending a Christian university, and he talks of its benefits.  The message itself gets across what Liberty is about, but the way it is delivered is what might cause administrators to be upset (if they even are).

The news story had a sound bite from Lewis, in which he said “Times change.  Now the message never changes, but the method does.”  This video demonstrates what Lewis is saying pretty well.  He is trying to tell people about his university in his own way.  This way is different from what any university (not just Liberty) would employ in trying to impart a message to prospective students.  Having seen many ads during collegiate sporting events that tout some particular school’s awesomeness, I know that Humble Tip is not the standard.  People generally don’t take well to change, and when it is the largest Evangelical Christian university in the world being discussed, the values on which it was founded will not be forgotten and dismissed in such a way.  Being a Baptist myself, I understand what the administrators at Liberty might possibly be feeling when evaluating this situation (if they even are).  I, too, am very conservative, so I can see why the school wouldn’t endorse Lewis as a spokesperson for the school (again, if this is even the case).  I would not expect Liberty to go against its founding ideals in favor of a more worldly approach to educating people about the school’s merits.

LU Anthem music video:

The local Fox station did a good job covering the story as far as being thorough is concerned.  The initial story and reaction were covered, with exclusive footage detailing for viewers what happened between the woman from and the Rand Paul campaigner.  After reading the story and watching its counterpart, it becomes pretty clear what the superficial circumstances were regarding the event.  That is, because it was caught on film, viewers can see for themselves what happened.  At this point, it was not known, or at least not made known, why things happened the way they did.

In the first story, various viewpoints are given, which lends more credibility to it.  The man being charged with assault is quoted in the story, thereby giving his side of things.  The man apologized, but he said the camera angle made things look worse than they really were.  Snippets from press releases issued by candidates Rand Paul and Jack Conway are read also.

The second story does a better job of explaining what led up to the confrontation.  For one thing, when the tape is played, viewers can actually hear what is being said this time, instead of only being able to see what happened, like in the first story.  Also, the man accused of assault is interviewed, although he did not want his face shown.  He is able to explain what happened, and he contends that things looked worse than they really were.  The woman who was stepped on is interviewed, so both sides of the situation are expressed by those who took part in them.  Rand Paul, who is being supported by the accused man, spoke to Fox41 about the event, but Jack Conway did not appear on camera to speak about it. released a statement that said it was appalled by what happened.

The third story again quotes the statement and in greater detail.  The same interview clip from the woman who was stepped on is played again.  A Rand Paul supporter was interviewed and her statements were played.  This story did not go into great detail about the event, and the accused man is not the focus.  Overall, the second story did the best job of giving fair coverage of both sides and getting across to viewers what happened and for what reasons.

Fox41 played the biggest role in this story’s national importance, because this station shot exclusive footage of it.  Since no other networks had their own footage, Fox41 had the market cornered for this story.  Every network and station had to rely on Fox41 for the footage at least.  The way this station chose to use the footage and disseminate it directly affected how the public perceived the events, what information was given to them, and how much air time would be given to the circumstances.  This station had control over how far this story would go and whether or not it attained national interest.

Law enforcement was aided by the video, because the man who was accused is easy to identify.  However, as it was stated in the first video, it was a misdemeanor, so the police could not go after and arrest the man.  The police could only charge the man with a crime, because they would have to be present and witness a crime firsthand to arrest him for a misdemeanor.  It was useful in allowing the police to do as much as they could in charging the man, however.

The potential effects on the election are wide ranging.  It is tough to gauge this, because politics is such a fickle thing, especially when it comes to voters.  It would not be surprising if this whole thing is put aside and voters see it as an unfortunate event that has no real bearing on the candidates or their qualifications.  If voters, specifically undecided voters, see it as an isolated incident that should not be held against either candidate, then it should not affect the outcome in any significant way.

There is always the possibility that voters will take what happened to heart and hold Paul directly accountable for the actions of a county campaign coordinator.  For some, it could be a reflection on who Rand Paul is and what he is willing to accept and tolerate if he is elected.  Viewers might take this event and extrapolate it, thereby expecting more of the same if Paul is elected.

It is probably most likely that there will be a balance between the two.  Some voters will brush off what happened, while others will castigate Paul for allowing his campaign coordinator to do something like this.  If the race is tight, this could have an impact, as Jack Conway will try to use this incident to his advantage.

I believe when incidents like this take place, the media needs to make sure all sides are covered, all pertinent information is disclosed, and whatever is disseminated is not editorialized.  This is a political issue, which means bias and opinions are inherently intertwined with the actual event.  If this incident took place at some other non political event, perhaps the coverage is not as thorough, the arguments are not as heated, and the story is not as important.  Since this happened a week out from the election, it becomes important to all potential voters.

I think both sides were covered fairly well, with opinions expressed from those involved directly and indirectly.  However, I could not help but think that the whole thing was being overblown.  I read the story before watching the footage.  When I read that the man had stomped on the woman’s shoulder and head, I expected her to be clinging to life or something.  I figured he must have done it repeatedly, and the woman is probably severely injured.  Instead, the reality was far less traumatic.  Stomped was a word used time and again, and I feel it is too strong of a word to use in describing this incident.

I felt that some of the people at the station, namely Bennett Haeberle, were leaning toward the woman’s side of how things played out.  People can see for themselves what happened and form their own opinions based on these observations without having an anchor subtly editorialize the story.  Perhaps it is just me, and my own bias is causing me to see things that are not there, but it felt like the reporting was covertly skewed in that direction.

Basically, I feel it is important to let the facts come to light, show people what happened, and try to be fair to all sides.  For the most part, I think this series of stories did that, but some things could have been done better.