The New York Times uses almost 900 words in a note to readers to explain its decision to publish some of the diplomatic messages obtained originally by Wikileaks.com.
Decisions like these date back to the earliest days of mass communications, though perhaps publication of The Pentagon Papers is still the hallmark event.
The lamest excuse The Times uses to justify the publication this time around is a kind of "all the kids are doing it" comment:
For The Times to ignore this material would be to deny its own readers the careful reporting and thoughtful analysis they expect when this kind of information becomes public.
There little or no danger that the story will be ignored, by the Times of anyone else. Either the Times has made the right decison or it has not. To say even if we don't do it, other will is, again, lame. If this were a NY Time exclusive would they hold off publishing it?
The Washington Post is running a Bloomberg story based on the cables that has Arabian countries, including Saudi Arabia, siding with Israel against Iran!
The Times makes it clear that they have gone to extraordinary lengths to protect information that deserves to be protected...informing the Obama Administration what it intended to publish and letting them argue for redaction. In some cases, the Times agreed. In others, not.
The media question here is this: does the government have the right to keep anything secret? The quick answer is, of course.
Even the staunchest advocate of freedom of information woudn't seriously argue that the names of espionage agents should be public (Valorie Plame might have some comment about that.)
The media lesson here is that the hated MSM is alive and well....sorting through the quarter million cables and crafting stories based on their journalism ability. Even though Wikileaks got the material first, there's no question that it is via the MSM that virtually everyone will find out what's in there, and what it means.
[The Monday Morning Media Memo is a regular feature of this blog.]