If Anne Applebaum is to be believed, the existence of primary sources is in and of itself the reason the dead-trees should be kept around. She writes for Slate:
I didn't think it was possible, but Julian Assange has now done it: By releasing 92,000 documents full of Afghanistan intelligence onto the laptops of an unsuspecting public, the founder of Wikileaks has finally made an ironclad case for the mainstream media. If you were under the impression that we don't need news organizations, editors, or reporters with more than 10 minutes' experience anymore, then think again. The notion that the Internet can replace traditional news-gathering has just been revealed to be a myth.
Ironically, that passage shows one of the key problems with the mainstream media: they don't know anything. The Afghanistan documents collected by Wikileaks are not "intelligence," but field reports from regular combat units and special forces. Also, the notion that Wikileaks is some kind of news organization when it is really an online repository of documents-i.e. sources instead of reportage-shows the kind of unfamiliarity with basic facts that people like Applebaum, in the mainstream media, wrongly attribute to Wikipedia and ignore in themselves.
It is undeniably true that there is often a need to know what she calls "the deeper context" of the raw information. However, to assert, as she does, that getting it will take "support of the mainstream media-a magazine, a newspaper-or even an ‘elite' institution like a university" is wrong. In fact, she offers no evidence as to why it should be so.
"Backpack" journalists like Michael Yon and Kevin Sites are providing some of the best contemporary reporting and they're hardly mainstream. The notion that the Internet somehow makes journalists sloppy is plainly false. Again, the point is: Wikileaks is the source, not the news itself. Journalists, weather they are with The Daily Caller or The Huffington Post or The Chicago Tribune or The New York Times all have a choice: put the effort into going through the documents to discover what is useful and newsworthy, or sit in press rooms and take dictation from Robert Gibbs.
Yes, journalists on the Internet fail, too. But they can be corrected almost instantly and they don't prattle on about how superior they are to everything under the sun. Even when the msm is wrong and corrected by everyone they will continue to propagate untruth after untruth until most people believe it. Comedian Lewis Black called it the Liberty Valance Theory of History: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
It happened in these past two weeks with the Shirley Sherrod firing being blamed on Fox News, even though Fox News didn't report on Sherrod until after she was fired. The mainstream media really got that one right.
But Applebaum takes the msm superiority complex to the next level when she says "Still, even these newspapers are operating under a major handicap. Because WikiLeaks gave them a deadline, they had no chance to do any real newspaper reporting."
Newspapers? On a deadline? Preposterous! Everyone knows reporting is a leisurely, easy-going activity, mostly devoted to power lunches with editors or partying with the vice president. No editor in the industry would ever set a deadline for a story. Go ahead, take three or four days to write a 500-word story on some random topic.
Honestly. Is it any wonder the mainstream media is going the way of the dodo?