Journalism has many rules that its practitioners must abide by. There are the usual rules like don't plagiarize and always confirm your sources, but there's one that I think is the most evil sin of them all - making up stories and passing it off as news. WikiLeaks was the center of a controversy this week involving such a scenario.
If you haven't heard about it yet, there's a fake New York Times op-ed piece floating around the Internet. It's reportedly written by Bill Keller, former executive editor for the NY Times, and it comes out in defense of Wikileaks and the NY Times reporters who wrote stories on the leaks. You can read the fake op-ed over at the fake NY Times Web site.
If you checked out the Web site, you can understand why people would have been fooled. It's one of the most elaborate fake Web sites ever constructed. I consider myself to be pretty good at spotting fakes and I was caught with my proverbial pants down just like everybody else.
In fact, we all thought it was real until Keller himself set the record straight on Twitter:
THERE IS A FAKE OP-ED GOING AROUND UNDER MY NAME, ABOUT WIKILEAKS. EMPHASIS ON "FAKE. "AS IN, NOT MINE.
So who was behind the fake NY Times article? It turns out that Wikileaks themselves were behind it the entire time. Here's the full rundown of events leading to the fake op-ed from a pastebin post tweeted from the official Wikileaks account.
1. Block New York times campaign starts late March.
2. BlockNYTimes campaign "wrests control" back over http://blocknytimes.org and starts new twitter account @block_nytimes.
3. Sunday morning, Anonymous & another other accounts start to tweet "Bill Keller opinion" article about bank blockade.
4. Bill Keller twitter account with one "I" switched for "l" starts tweeting article, asking NYTimes journalists to reweet.
5. NYTimes tech editor falls for it, re-tweeting to 125k followers. As do many others.
6. A variation on the PayPal blog gives a statement on the Block NYTimes / WikiLeaks issue.
7. Nine hours ago, @journalismfest tweets WikiLeaks, A Post Postscript by @nytkeller.
8. Bill Keller apparently himself fooled(!) in the early morning retweets the "hoax" article tweet from @journalismfest.
9. Bill Keller apparently discovers his error 5 hours later and GOES INTO CAPS MODE.
10. Inexplicably Bill Keller @nytkeller then tweets "I am now a world expert in dressage. Ask me anything."
11. Bill Keller @nytkeller then deletes the tweet showing he was fooled and later the bizarre "dressage" tweet.
12. WikiLeaks takes credit for NYTimes banking blockade hoax. But who else involved?
Assange:"If the NYTimes cannot act with honnor to defend their 'sources' from economic censorship then we'll just have to do it for them"
Yes. We admit it. WikiLeaks (Assange & co) and our great supporters where behind the successful NYTimes banking blockade hoax on @nytkeller.
What is not a hoax, is that WikiLeaks is under illegal economic censorship by US financial insitutions and NYTimes says nothing. The rats.
I make it no secret that I believe in the mission of Wikileaks, even if I don't necessarily agree with their methods. I used to be on their side, but now I'm not so sure.
I fancy myself a journalist from time to time, especially after studying under some of the greatest journalists I know at the University of Kentucky. I hold myself up to the ideals that they strive for. Creating fake op-eds and assuming the identity of a journalist as a prank or protest is not what a real journalist does. The folks at WikiLeaks should be ashamed of themselves for their little stunt.
The fight for a more open government and transparency is important, but WikiLeaks is not part of that fight anymore as far as I'm concerned. They have proven that they're more concerned with petty fame than any kind of real journalistic integrity.