What big data leaks tell us about the future of journalism – and its past
Internet Policy Review
The Panama Papers show how leaking has been normalised and how news media have positioned themselves as a viable alternative to dedicated leaking platforms like Wikileaks. However, the fact that leaking has been normalised doesn’t mean it didn’t change anything. Quite the contrary: normalisation is change, but not the radical and ‘disruptive’ type of change that is popular when it comes to new technologies. By ‘routinising’ the way journalists deal with and rationalise leaking, and by fitting leaking as a concept into their professional identity, big leaks have contributed to two larger developments that increasingly shape investigative journalism: advances in data journalism and automation, and a culture of collaboration and sharing. Both developments expand the agency of journalists, but also raise new questions about the identity and role of journalism. Yet the history of normalisation should make us sceptical of grand narratives proclaiming the ‘disruption’ of journalism. Journalists will be forced to re-articulate their professional identity and role, but they will most likely do so in ways that preserve traditional journalistic values, practices, ethics and the role as a gatekeeper of publicly relevant information.