Brave New (Journalism) World: When It Changed

Got some inside information you want to expose about a major government failure or a corporate cover-up? Who you gonna call?

WikiLeaks.

As of last Sunday, when WikiLeaks published its Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010, it’s now clear that you no longer need a major media corporation to expose the important issues that those in power would rather keep covered up. You just need a scrappy organization of dedicated and technically savvy activists.

Major media corporations may not survive as the ground continues to shift underneath them, but journalism is going to make it. Oh, sure, WikiLeaks used The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel to publicize its detailed information on the failures in Afghanistan, even giving them advance access so they could double check the data. But the fact that the data was published with great seriousness and fanfare by those publications (and immediately picked up by papers not in the loop, like The Washington Post) gives WikiLeaks an enhanced level of credibility. I’m willing to bet that the next time WikiLeaks has a major scoop, it won’t bother with the advance tip to some of the established press. It won’t have to.

And it’s doing it for a fraction of what it costs to run The New York Times. Or CNN.

Don’t get me wrong. We still need reporters and editors, not to mention whistleblowers willing to risk everything to tell the truth. But the institutions are changing, and changing more rapidly than anyone might have expected. Even two years ago information like WikiLeaks just published would have gone to a major newspaper. No one else would have had the readership or the resources.

The world just shifted.

What does any of this have to do with fiction? Well, it has a lot to do with science fiction, because it’s just the latest in a long line of examples of things that looked fantastical a few years ago and are now just the stuff of daily life. If I sit down tomorrow to write a futuristic story that includes some news reports, I better not assume that everyone heard the news on TV or saw it in their local paper, even online. Tomorrow’s source of news may look very different.

And for anyone who writes for a living, it’s just another example of how the institutions you work for or with are going to disappear and be remade.

The future: It’s not just for science fiction readers any more.

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My 51 flash fictions and a few other stories are available on Nancy Jane’s Bookshelf, and anthologies containing some of my stories are available through Powell’s. The free, chapter-by-chapter version of Changeling starts here. And check out my stories in the Book View Cafe anthologies The Shadow Conspiracy, Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls, and Dragon Lords and Warrior Women.

I will report on my results from the Clarion West Write-a-thon in this space next week. You can still sponsor my participation and you can keep up with my progress on Facebook.

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