Transparency, privacy, and political opportunism | What's Left

The publication of hacked emails and documents seems to have become a regular occurrence in recent years. However, while the government documents leaked by Edward Snowden were combed through by journalists who made it a priority to write about and publish only stories that served the public interest, more recent leaks have not been handled so well.

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The recent email leaks have been made available to the public in their entirety, with issues of genuine public concern mixed in with personal conversations and confessions. While emails detailing the decision-making process behind a party policy might contain concerning revelations (did donors have any influence over the matter?), discussions about the conduct of a staff-person, or someone’s health issues should remain private.

Unfortunately, in the hands of a media and blogging community obsessed with sensationalism, some of these private and personal conversations are being published regardless of whether they are really of any public concern. In some cases, they are ruining people’s lives. Additionally, the most recent leaks of Clinton campaign emails have been timed to intentionally cause as much damage as possible.

In a discussion between Glenn Greenwald (one of the journalists who wrote about the Snowden leaks) and Naomi Klein (a Canadian author and activist), the two talk about the careful balance required when reporting on leaked documents. What responsibilities do journalists have? How do they determine which stories are actually in the public interest and provide proper context? Greenwald and Klein may not have all the answers, but their discussion is informative in shaping the contours of the debate.

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