The New York times discusses its rationale for publishing and reporting on the documents:
The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match…
…The Times has taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security. The Times’s redactions were shared with other news organizations and communicated to WikiLeaks, in the hope that they would similarly edit the documents they planned to post online.
The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins says that The job of the media is not to protect the powerful from embarrassment:
Is it justified? Should a newspaper disclose virtually all a nation’s secret diplomatic communication, illegally downloaded by one of its citizens? The reporting in the Guardian of the first of a selection of 250,000 US state department cables marks a recasting of modern diplomacy. Clearly, there is no longer such a thing as a safe electronic archive, whatever computing’s snake-oil salesmen claim. No organisation can treat digitised communication as confidential. An electronic secret is a contradiction in terms.
Anything said or done in the name of a democracy is, prima facie, of public interest. When that democracy purports to be “world policeman” – an assumption that runs ghostlike through these cables – that interest is global. Nonetheless, the Guardian had to consider two things in abetting disclosure, irrespective of what is anyway published by WikiLeaks. It could not be party to putting the lives of individuals or sources at risk, nor reveal material that might compromise ongoing military operations or the location of special forces.
Der Spiegel believes US foreign policy is badly shaken, and that public interest outweighs political and security concerns in their decision to publish:
Never before in history has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information — data that can help paint a picture of the foundation upon which US foreign policy is built. Never before has the trust America’s partners have in the country been as badly shaken. Now, their own personal views and policy recommendations have been made public — as have America’s true views of them…
…With a team of more than 50 reporters and researchers, SPIEGEL has viewed, analyzed and vetted the mass of documents. In most cases, the magazine has sought to protect the identities of the Americans’ informants, unless the person who served as the informant was senior enough to be politically relevant. In some cases, the US government expressed security concerns and SPIEGEL accepted a number of such objections. In other cases, however, SPIEGEL felt the public interest in reporting the news was greater than the threat to security. Throughout our research, SPIEGEL reporters and editors weighed the public interest against the justified interest of countries in security and confidentiality.
William Kristol of the Weekly Standard writes that the US government should ignore the release and refuse all comment about it. He later adds that WikiLeaks should be punished:
I didn’t mean to say that treating the leaks as beneath contempt and beneath comment was all the U.S. government could or should do. My original post didn’t deal with the possibilities of criminal prosecution or covert action or cyber-warfare against WikiLeaks. I’m for whatever can be done on these fronts.
CNN explains why they did not have advanced access to the documents:
In addition to the Times, four European newspapers — Britain’s The Guardian, Le Monde in France, Der Spiegel in Germany and El Pais in Spain — had prior access to WikiLeaks documents. CNN has not had advance access to the documents because it declined to sign a confidentiality agreement with the site.
For a cheat sheet of what’s actually in the release, the Atlantic Wire has a good aggregation of current reporting and analysis.
The links above go to the landing page on those sites for their complete coverage.