Journalists or Cyber-Anarchists? A qualitative analysis of professional journalists' commentary about WikiLeaks

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New media for sharing information online have presented a challenge to professional journalism in a variety of ways, as new tools or media for communicating information allow more of the public to share information in a publicly available way. WikiLeaks, an online site that began publishing secret and classified information in 2007, provides a useful lens through which to examine professional journalists' responses to one such challenge. In responding to these challenges, journalists may engage in paradigm repair, making efforts to reinforce and police their professional norms and practices by identifying and normalizing violations. This study examines the terms and the frames used in commentary about WikiLeaks by professional journalists, in an attempt to understand how professional journalists define and defend their own profession through their efforts at paradigm repair, and to consider the professional, social, and political consequences of those efforts. Journalists primarily framed WikiLeaks as a non-journalist actor, one that threatened the national security of the United States. This framing can be seen as paradigm repair, as journalists excluded WikiLeaks from their profession on the basis of its lack of editorial structure, physical location, and concern for U.S. public interest. The consequences of this exclusion are to leave WikiLeaks and other non-traditional journalistic actors more vulnerable, and to make it more difficult for professional journalists to stay relevant and adopt improved practices in the changing media ecology.