Wikileaks journalist shares story with Brighton students

Posted On 18 Mar 2011 at 12:12 am
By Claire Smyth

One of the journalists who broke the Wikileaks US diplomatic cables story spoke about the scoop to a group of trainee reporters in Brighton.

Nick Davies, the award-winning investigative journalist and author of Flat Earth News, also talked about meeting Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Mr Davies said that he chanced upon the story after reading about the arrest of Bradley Manning, a whistleblower who passed classified information to Mr Assange.

He described his first meeting with Mr Assange in a Brussels café where they negotiated the handing over of secret documents on the war in Afghanistan.

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They were published by The Guardian newspaper last year.

Mr Davies, who works for The Guardian, said that the newspaper industry was dying because the internet was stealing all its readers.

He told journalism students at City College Brighton and Hove in Wilson Avenue, Whitehawk: “You’re training to get into an industry that is clearly dying.

“But it is happening at the same time as the journalism itself is really exciting.”

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On Monday he told the students that he had been working on the News of the World phone hacking story when he stumbled across the Wikileaks scoop.

Mr Assange gave him access to secret files by underlining letters on a beer mat to create a password.

Mr Davies said: “We had to lie to friends and family. We couldn’t tell anyone.

“We had our own room in the Guardian offices, complete with a cover story of why we were there.”

He also gave the students insights into the way he worked: “Most of the time I find stories by using my imagination, looking at something and wondering if anything else is there.

“You’re constantly using your imagination to guess what might be there.

“You have to use your brain like a muscle.”

His book Flat Earth News was published in 2008 and described the pressures on journalists today, often resulting in the “churnalism” of press releases.

Mr Davies told the students: “Because we are short of resources lots of news desks and reporters churn out unchecked stories.”

City College journalism student Georgie Newman, 23, said: “His accounts of the clandestine meetings with Assange were really exciting.

“Who knew journalism could be so fun.”

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