How to spot a media leak

Around home I can usually spot a leaky pipe with the spurting noise coming out of the bathroom – or even worse the small flood on the floor.

In the media there is one word that gives it away, just about every single time.  It goes something like this: “The Daily Blab UNDERSTANDS that…”  Oh dear I made it a bit obvious with the underline and upper case. 

Yep, anytime a news organisation spills the beans on something and uses the magic word “understands” you know there’s a leaker.  What I mean is this: It is not a wild guess.  Understands is usually code for: We know exactly what happened, we’ve been fully briefed – in fact we’ve even got documents and a couple of photographs…but the bloke (or blokette) who gave us the good oil needs to keep his/her identify a secret (or, more to the point, just keep his/her job!).

Leaks are the mainstay of journalism.  Deep Throat of Watergate fame was a leaker.  Julian Assange has turned leaking into a profession…albeit at great cost to his personal freedom.  (Unless you regard hanging out permanently in the Ecuadorian Embassy as liberty par excellence…)

The thing with leaks is that often they are a symptom of a bigger issue for the organisation from which the informational spurt occurred.  Often it indicates loss of trust between the employer and employees.  The natural tendency after a leak is to go hunting for the perpetrator.  I am not endorsing people who break the law but I am urging consideration of what led up to the leak in the first place. Often it is evidence of disengagement and frustration and just plugging the leak doesn’t actually solve the problem.