WikiLeaks: When information is not beautiful

I can hardly help myself but to comment on what for many of us is the topic du jour, WikiLeaks.

I can hardly help myself but to comment on what for many of us is the topic du jour, WikiLeaks.

Communications professionals have so much to find fascinating about WikiLeaks, from the notion of journalism vs. media to the precarious place that social platforms occupy relative to freedom of speech and information. But in my interactions with others this week I have been struck numerous times by those unaware of either the details or generalities of the issues.

There are volumes of information with implications to national security and international diplomacy as well as a deluge of coverage across all media. Yet educated people, either unaware or uninterested, make me wonder if I'm drawn to the subject by virtue of my chosen trade, or the fact that I live online. Maybe I'm intrigued by the rich storyline that includes an illustrious hacker turned informant, the complex characters of Spc. Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, and the now unprecedented fury of a legion of hackers against iconic corporate brands.

When I think about the content at the heart of this controversy, the amount of information contained in 250,000 cables may simply be too immense to be useful to people who consume 140 characters at a time.

Or perhaps the need for interpretation and context in a sea of information is so great that in its absence we unconsciously re-tweet sensationalized headlines as presumed fact. I am certain that my desire for accessible content inspired my love of data journalism, a powerful visual means to create context and clarity out of complex ideas and giving rise to new insights that can be syndicated across the social Web.

As PR professionals we often think of the written word as the core component of our craft. Shouldn't we also have accountability to present relevant information in a visual way that activates social media as the vehicle for shared storytelling between consumers and brands and eliminates the need to wade through overwhelming detail to access value?

Chad Latz is president of the global digital practice at Cohn & Wolfe.  

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