How the Times and other (European) papers have just covered WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks Coverage Roundup, Again
A look at coverage from The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and elsewhere
By CJR Staff

On Sunday, the online secret-sharing site WikiLeaks began the process of releasingapproximately 250,000 previously classified U.S. Department of State documents pertaining to American diplomatic activity across the world. As with their last two document dumps, WikiLeaks shared the documents with a number of news organizations before they were widely released. Here’s a basic rundown of the initial coverage from those outlets and others.

The New York Times

The New York Times might have been left out of the WikiLoop this time around had The Guardian’s investigations executive editor David Leigh not handed them copies of the 250,000 cables dumped by WikiLeaks yesterday. In an editorial, the sole American paper to have early access wrote that it decided to report on the cache and publish select cables because “the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match.” If that sounds a little tepid next to some of the editorial explanations and exhortations coming from their European counterparts, you may think similarly of some of the reporting.

As we have already noted, a leading Times piece splashed across today’s front page on the increased intelligence-gathering expectations being placed on diplomats and state department personnel glosses over a key-and pretty damning-point the Europeans have made much more of: the state department’s order to effectively spy on UN officials as high up as Ban Ki-moon. The Times’s lead piece, “Leaked Cables Offer Raw Look at U.S. Diplomacy,” leans a little heavily on gossipy inter-embassy burns-“When the head is rotten it affects the whole body” is one leveled at Pakistani president Zardari-and an extraneous-feeling description of a lavish wedding in the Caucasus. And those who feel the paper has oversold the dangers of Iran in previous dumps will find much to rile them here. However, the paper does lay out in more detail than most a formidable catalogue of revelations found within the logs, from the tight relationship between Putin and Berlusconi to American diplomatic efforts to secure resettlement for Guantanamo detainees.

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