"WikiLeaks: News in the Networked Era" presents history, hypothesis, analysis, and speculation about WikiLeaks' influence on and its interaction with conventional journalism, as seen by Charlie Beckett, a journalist who runs Polis, a think tank at the London School of Economics. Julian Assange dismissed this book, I'm sure without having read it, because of James Ball's contributions. Ball is a former WikiLeaks volunteer turned rabid Assange critic, most notable for writing "The Guardian"'s more nonsensical smear pieces against the WikiLeaks founder. But Ball seems only to have contributed theory, and perhaps research, to this book. It contains no reference to his experiences. The book is generally complimentary of WikiLeaks, in fact, and only mildly critical of Assange.
Beckett begins by declaring that "WikiLeaks is the most powerful journalism phenomenon to emerge in the digital era." "It is a prototype for the shift from a closely linear structure to a more open, networked and collaborative process." One of the book's flaws is that it never really proves that thesis. As a consumer of journalism, I haven't noticed any seismic shift in the relationship between journalist and consumer. Charlie Beckett's ideas are interesting to the extent that they represent a journalist's, and perhaps even an industry's, perspective on the WikiLeaks phenomenon, but they are speculative. He correctly points out that Julian Assange is "quite a conventional media idealist", which has served Assange poorly. It serves Beckett poorly too; he paints too rosy picture of journalists.
The book is organized into four parts, each of which present a different topic, followed by the authors' interpretation of WikiLeaks' significance in that context. "What was new about WikiLeaks?" traces the organization's early history, when it fit a "classic definition of alternative media." "The Afghan War Logs, Iraq War Logs, and the Embassy Cables" release relied on formal partnerships with media organizations, and the authors emphasize on how different media organizations worked with WikiLeaks. "WikiLeaks and the future of journalism" covers, somewhat partially, the breakdown of WikiLeaks' relationships with news organizations and its role in the battle for an open internet. "Social medias as disruptive journalism" gives social media too much credit in the so-called "Arab Spring".
It is difficult to know how to rate "WikiLeaks: News in the Networked Era". Those who have followed the WikiLeaks saga closely will find some new ideas here that merit discussion. I found there was too little of it, however. There is no attempt to be rigorous or to delve deeply into any topic. Beckett is concerned with presenting ideas, not with exploring them. The writing style seems aimed at dull 12-year-olds. And there are too many errors: WikiLeaks has not been around for a decade (p. 2). "Underground" was not written in 2001 (p. 17). The threat reports from the Afghan War Logs were never published (p. 53). Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim worked for Google, not Facebook (p. 140). I could go on. Better editing and more depth would have made this a better book.