CBS and Julian Assange

Sunday's "60 Minutes" interview gave WikiLeaks founder his best platform yet

Topics: WikiLeaks, Julian Assange,

CBS and Julian AssangeJulian Assange

I owe an apology to Steve Kroft and his colleagues at the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” — and want to congratulate them for performing a genuine public service last night.

As you may know, the program featured a long interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.  My initial reaction was incredulity, at what seemed like an amateurish if not downright embarrassing performance by the interviewer. In particular, I was astonished at the tone and substance of some of the questions, which seemed at times to come out of the “old media sucking up to power” school of which CBS often seems to be a proud member. Here’s one of the exchanges:

Kroft: There’s a special set of rules in the United States for disclosing classified information. There is long-standing …

Assange: There’s a special set of rules for soldiers. For members of the State Department, who are disclosing classified information. There’s not a special set of rules for publishers to disclose classified information. There is the First Amendment. It covers the case. And there’s been no precedent that I’m aware of in the past 50 years of prosecuting a publisher for espionage. It is just not done. Those are the rules. You do not do it.

At first, this sounds like an interviewer simply parroting the establishment media’s sense of what is “allowed” and what isn’t. It reflects an inside-the-Beltway echo chamber of insiders protecting each other.

But then, the genius of the interview becomes clear. These are not hard questions. In fact, they’re pure softballs. Again and again, Julian Assange swats them out of the park. In the above example, he points out that the rules, such as they are, are about the people with immediate access to classified and/or secret information, not the journalists who receive information and then publish it.

What I’ve concluded is that “60 Minutes” has deep sympathy for Julian Assange, and did its best to give him the kind of platform that would, first, make him seem much less threatening to the United States audience that has been so thoroughly propagandized by the government and other major media; and second, reinforce the value of journalism in general, and investigative journalism in particular.

Is CBS that subtle? I sure hope so.

If you haven’t already seen the interview, you should. Here’s the first segment:

And here’s the second one:

A longtime participant in the tech and media worlds, Dan Gillmor is director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication. Follow Dan on Twitter: @dangillmor. More about Dan here.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Rose Jay via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Labrador Retriever

    These guys are happy because their little brains literally can't grasp the concept of global warming.

    Hysteria via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    German Shepherd

    This momma is happy to bring her little guy into the world, because she doesn't know that one day they'll both be dead.

    Christian Mueller via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Golden Retriever

    I bet these guys wouldn't be having so much fun if they knew the sun was going to explode one day.

    WilleeCole Photography via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    This dude thinks he's tough, but only because nobody ever told him about ISIS.

    Soloviova Liudmyla via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    This little lady is dreaming about her next meal-- not Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

    Labrador Photo Video via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Yorkshire Terrier

    This trusting yorkie has never even heard the name "Bernie Madoff."

    Pavla via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    She is smiling so widely because she is too stupid to understand what the Holocaust was.

    Aneta Pics via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    Sure, frolic now, man. One day you're going to be euthanized and so is everyone you love.

    Dezi via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    French Bulldog

    He's on a casual afternoon stroll because he is unfamiliar with the concept of eternity.

    Jagodka via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    Wouldn't it be nice if we could all be this care-free? But we can't because we are basically all indirectly responsible for slavery.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>