In general history views exposures of information quite favorably. From Upton Sinclair to Mark Felt, there are many examples of surfaced information that was certainly damaging to some–the in case of The Jungle, relatively few, and in the case of Watergate, a great many–that was ultimately judged as a heroic act.
Wikileaks could be called the first organization to scale muckraking, but it seems like newspapers did that decades or really centuries ago. So I think it’s interesting that Wikileaks has created such a ruckus.
It seems that one of the big differences is the extent to which Wikileaks injects itself, the organization, into the story when it releases information. For me, it makes it nearly impossible not to question their motives. At a high level, I think it’s hard to make a case that more transparency (in anything) isn’t generally good in the long run. And yet, Wikileaks has never managed to be seen, at least in the US, in the way that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are, who basically did the same thing.
I’m very curious to see what people will think of Wikileaks in 20+ and 100+ years. My guess is that they will ultimately be praised, but they might have to walk through hell to get there.