They can’t say they didn’t see it coming.
Emily Bell was director of digital content for Britain’s Guardian newspaper from 2006 to 2010, and before that she was the editor-in-chief of the media company’s Guardian Unlimited web operation from 2001 to 2006, during which time she oversaw such groundbreaking projects as the launch of the “Comment Is Free” open blogging platform — one of the first major efforts at crowdsourcing commentary from a traditional media outlet — as well as the massively successful MP Expenses project, which saw 20,000 people comb through close to 300,000 public expense reports filed by members of parliament looking for irregularities. Emily is now the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and is a leading media commentator for a number of outlets, as well as writing on her own blog about the future of media and journalism online. During a recent presentation at Massey College in Toronto, sponsored by Samara Canada, Emily talked about her experiences at The Guardian and about how newspapers need to be “of the web, not just on the web” in order to succeed. Emily has also written about how WikiLeaks represents a fundamental shift in the world of the media and journalism, saying: “If you follow the latest cache of diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks and reported by the Guardian, The New York Times and others it is impossible not to conclude that this is a pivotal moment for journalism, its teaching and its practice.” Emily went on to say that WikiLeaks represents “the first real battleground between the political establishment and the open web,” and that it forces journalists and news organizations to “demonstrate to what extent they are now part of an establishment it is their duty to report on.” Emily will be taking part in a panel at mesh 2011 — along with media consultant and author Jeff Jarvis and Micah Sifry of TechPresident and the Personal Democracy Forum — about this exact question: how WikiLeaks and others of its ilk (including offshoots such as OpenLeaks) are changing the nature of what we call journalism in the 21st century.