Nonprofit Newswire | WikiLeaks—Breakthrough Innovation by a Nonprofit

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July 26, 2010; Source: Knight Center for Journalism | About that innovation you wanted . . . It is worth noting that ranked high among the year’s most remarkable innovations by a nonprofit has to be WikiLeaks, the website that has published The Afghan War Diary, more than 90,000 classified documents on the war in Afghanistan.

This is, perhaps, a great example of how real breakthrough social innovation can at times be uncomfortable and fraught.

You may remember WikiLeaks from its April release of a video that depicted American soldiers killing at least eighteen people, including two Reuters journalists. In a New Yorker profile from June, Raffi Khatchadourian describes the group’s history: “Since it went online, three and a half years ago, the site has published an extensive catalogue of secret material, ranging from the Standard Operating Procedures at Camp Delta, in Guantánamo Bay, and the “Climategate” e-mails from the University of East Anglia, in England, to the contents of Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo account.”

WikiLeaks is now in the process of being reviled/celebrated for releasing War Diary, an act that is the embodiment of its purpose. Termed a data journalism site, WikiLeaks is a groundbreaker for a component of the new journalism environment. It also may be the soul of nonprofithood, dependent on crowdsourcing for the sometimes shocking raw information that constitutes its contribution to journalism.

It is also “stateless”, its founder, Julian Assange, apparently wandering about the world—sleeping in airports and friends’ couches—to avoid being an easy target for the intelligence agencies that may take issue with its work. Its privacy firewalls are also spread across various countries. This is the epitome of an independent actor. Does that make WikiLeaks the harbinger of our more transparent future, or simply dangerous, or both?

It will be interesting to listen to the opinions of pundits in the days and weeks ahead, but there is one thing for sure—this tiny nonprofit (only three to five staff work on WikiLeaks full-time though hundreds of volunteers from around the world help maintain the website’s complicated infrastructure) has captured the attention and imagination of the world again.—Ruth McCambridge