Communication Whistleblowing
by
Andrea Hickerson
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0173

Introduction

Whistleblowing, also written as “whistle blowing” and “whistle-blowing,” is when an individual or small group of individuals provides evidence of significant wrongdoing going on within an agency or organization they are either part of or have knowledge of, and then complains internally or externally, usually at great personal cost. “Leaking” is a strategy used by some whistleblowers, whereby individuals release private information, usually to journalists or advocacy groups. Speaking out publicly and offering personal testimony or witness is another possible method for whistleblowers. Early studies on whistleblowing come from publications on business management and ethics, but there has been an uptick in whistleblowing research in communication post-WikiLeaks disclosure of documents provided by former US army soldier Chelsea Manning in 2010. Researchers disagree on whether or not individuals must and should take their information public to qualify as a whistleblower. Certainly, however, it is in journalists’ best interests for whistleblowers to do so because it helps reinforce their role as the fourth estate. Much research has explored the motivations of whistleblowers and offers advice to journalists wishing to cultivate and protect such relationships. Notably research from outside liberal democracies suggests whistleblowing may be culturally bounded and that it retains a negative connotation in developing countries.

General Overviews

Most comprehensive overviews of whistleblowing come from business and law. Much of the business literature advocates developing internal whistleblowing procedures that catch would-be public whistleblowers before their complaints go public. Lipman 2012, for example, suggests companies should treat whistleblowers as friends and not foes. Jubb 1999 and Near and Miceli 1985 are two oft-cited explications of the whistleblowing process. Elliston, et al. 1985 is a theoretical and methodological primer on whistleblowing. Brown, et al. 2014 offers a comprehensive and contemporary overview of whistleblowing research. Research on the relationship between whistleblowing and democracy, such as that by Lewis and Vandekerckhove 2011 and Johnson 2003, and noted by Westin 1981, is of special interest to journalism scholars where working with whistleblowers lends the perception of journalists as government watchdogs. Martin 2014 is notable because it clearly articulates the relationship between leaking and whistleblowing as well as other insights from the perspective of whistleblowers.

  • Brown, A. J., David Lewis, Richard Moberly, and Wim Vandekerckhove, eds. 2014. International handbook on whistleblowing research. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

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    Contemporary overview of whistleblowing with emphasis on cultural norms, the effects of organizational culture, and responsiveness and legal research and protections.

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  • Elliston, Frederick, John Keenan, Paula Lockhart, and Jane van Schaick. 1985. Whistleblowing research: Methodological and moral issues. New York: Praeger.

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    Comprehensive analysis of the whistleblowing process, including strategies for whistleblowers to receive attention. Advocates an action-oriented definition of whistleblowing where disclosures become a matter of public record (not handled internal to organizations). Review of relevant individual-level and organizational communication theories. Explication of the case study method with examples.

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  • Johnson, Roberta Ann. 2003. Whistleblowing: When it works––and why. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

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    Defines whistleblowers as reporting external to the organization. Argues whistleblowers are more common in the United States than elsewhere. Notable for reviewing policy impacts brought about by whistleblowers, as well as an in-depth discussion of the benefits of being a whistleblower.

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  • Jubb, Peter B. 1999. Whistleblowing: A restrictive definition and interpretation. Journal of Business Ethics 21.1 (August): 77–94.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1005922701763Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Summarizes contrasting definitions of whistleblowing, summarized handily in a table. Notes most disagreement concerns attention to the whistleblower’s motivation and whether or not the disclosure of complaints can be internal and external, or just external. Jubb falls in the external-only camp.

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  • Lewis, David, and Wim Vandekerckhove, ed. 2011. Whistleblowing and democratic values. London: International Whistleblowing Research Network.

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    Edited volume came out of a 2009 conference on whistleblowing. Chapters address the tension between private and public spheres (“how do we make whistleblowing work for democracy?” versus “what happens to people who raise concerns?”). Studies focus on whistleblowing in already democratic countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, and Austrialia.

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  • Lipman, Frederick D. 2012. Whistleblowers: Incentives, disincentives, and protection strategies. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley

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    Written by a lawyer, provides a clear overview of whistleblowing following the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. Provides an overview of government and corporate policies. Includes case studies. Argues women are more likely to become external whistleblowers due to concerns over internal retaliation.

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  • Martin, Brian. 2014. Research that whistleblowers want––and what they need. In International handbook on whistleblowing research. Edited by A. J. Brown, David Lewis, Richard Moberly, and Wim Vandekerckhove, 497–521. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

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    Based on over twenty years of research with whistleblowers. Offers advice on what would-be whistleblowers should know and do. Good explication of whistleblowing vis-à-vis leaking. Warns anonymous leaking is perceived to lack some authority.

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  • Near, Janet P., and Marcia Miceli. February 1985. Organizational dissidence: The case of whistle-blowing. Journal of Business Ethics 4.1: 1–16.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00382668Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Written prior to major whistleblowing legislation in the United States, explicates a model for the whistleblowing process. Defines four elements: the whistlerblower, the act or complaint, the party to whom the complaint is lodged and the organization which the complaint is filed against. Suggests a mixed method approach for future research.

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  • Westin, Alan F., ed. 1981. Whistle-blowing! Loyalty and dissent in the corporation. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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    Introduction provides an overview of early arguments for establishing whistleblower protection in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. Credits Watergate with generating interest, but also the development of corporate law and public attitudes about corporations. Chapters are first person accounts of whistleblowers in various industries including construction and transportation.

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Focal Points in Whistleblowing Research

As outlined in Jubb 1999 (cited under General Overviews), whistleblowing is a multistep process. Because whistleblowing happens rarely, and when it does so it happens in charged atmospheres, it is difficult to study. In studying whistleblowing, researchers tend to favor case studies and interviews as methods, followed by content analyses, experiments, and surveys. Theoretically they often focus on one of the following: micro characteristics of whistleblowers, organizational dynamics, ethical evaluations, and legal assessments.

Individual-Level Factors

Given the opportunity and the evidence, not everyone would choose to be a whistleblower, as illustrated in Henningsen, et al. 2013. An individual’s motivation for blowing the whistle is often tied to his or her emotions (Gundlach, et al. 2003), their self-identity (Gravley, et al. 2015), or even their religious conviction (Grant 2002).

  • Grant, Colin. 2002. Whistle blowers: Saints of secular culture. Journal of Business Ethics 39.4 (September): 391–399.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1019771212846Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the religious conviction as a catalyst for whistleblowing. The author suggests this is why some whistleblowers take large risks despite negative consequences that could befall them and their families.

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  • Gravley, Dianne, Brian K. Richardson, and John M. Allison Jr. 2015. Navigating the “abyss”: A narrative analysis of whistle-blowing, retaliation, and identity within Texas public school systems. Management Communication Quarterly 29.3: 171–197.

    DOI: 10.1177/0893318914567666Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interviews with retaliated against whistleblowers revealed four identities: crusader, citizen, mom, and popularity seeker. The authors discuss how these identities related to their ability to cope with retaliation.

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  • Gundlach, Michael J., Scott C. Douglas, and Mark J. Martinko. 2003. The decision to blow the whistle: A social information processing framework. Academy of Management Review 28.1: 107–123.

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    Proposes a model for individual whistleblowing that integrates social information processing, impression management, and emotion.

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  • Henningsen, Mary Lynn Miller, Kathleen S. Valde, and Jessica Denbow. 2013. Academic misconduct: A goals-plans-action approach to peer confrontation and whistle-blowing. Communication Education 62.2 (April): 148–168.

    DOI: 10.1080/03634523.2012.752509Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Experimental study tested when students were likely to blow the whistle about classmates’ cheating. Students were influenced by moral opinions, if they felt they were effected, and if they perceived themselves as part of the same group as the cheater.

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Organizational and Group Dynamics

The organizational dynamics and reporting process within an organization are major factors affecting if and to whom a potential whistleblower will turn. Tholander 2011 shows how quickly groups turn on individuals who vocalize complaints within a group. Similarly, McGlynn and Richardson 2014 shows how social support wanes for whistleblowers in public and in private. Callahan, and Dworkin 1994 notes that individuals are more likely to keep complaints internal if they feel they will ultimately be supported there. Tsahuridu and Vandekerckhove 2008 recognizes the potential of organizational whistleblower policies to grant whistleblowers moral autonomy, but warn that individuals who don’t report wrongdoing may potentially be held liable for not reporting what they know. Finally, Elliston, et al. 1985 presents a series of case studies to practice thinking through how people in a similar situation might respond. Chapter 5 of Elliston, et al. 1985 concerns a useful case study of an individual who ultimately chose to report outside their organization and went to the press.

  • Callahan, Elletta Sangrey, and Terry Morehead Dworkin. 1994. Who blows the whistle to the media, and why: Organizational characteristics of media whistleblowers. American Business Law Journal 32.2: 151–184.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-1714.1994.tb00933.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reports that individuals are more likely to whistleblow to the media if they believe their complaints will not be taken seriously or if they feel threatened within their organization. Significantly, although judges and legislatures report looking less favorably on media whistleblowing, research suggests this bias is unfair.

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  • Elliston, Frederick, John Keenan, Paula Lockhart, and Jane van Schaick. 1985. Whistleblowing: Managing dissent in the workplace. New York: Praeger.

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    Case studies used to illustrate how different industries and their cultures may respond differently to whistleblowers. Case studies conclude with a list of discussion questions and suggestions for further reading. The press is highlighted in chapter 5, a case study of a whistleblower who went to a newspaper with evidence of pesticides poisoning farm animals.

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  • McGlynn, Joseph, III, and Brian K. Richardson. 2014. Private support, public alienation: Whistle-blowers and the paradox of social support. Western Journal of Communication 78.2 (March-April): 213–237.

    DOI: 10.1080/10570314.2013.807436Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Through qualitative interviews with whistlerblowers, the authors document the loss of both public and private social support after individuals blow the whistle. Although taking their stories to the media provided some catharsis, the authors recommend social support must be part of the whistleblowing process to help combat alienation, stigma, and other potential negative consequences.

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  • Tholander, Michael. 2011. Mundane whistleblowing: Social drama in assessment talk. Discourse Studies 13.1: 69–92.

    DOI: 10.1177/1461445610387737Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    “Mundane whistleblowing” is defined as publically airing complaints about peers. An experiment at a junior high-school revealed conversational patterns leveled at the whistleblower at the time of the reveal. More hostile strategies to discredit the whistleblower were pursued after the initial conversation.

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  • Tsahuridu, Eva E., and Wim Vandekerckhove. 2008. Organisational whistleblowing policies: Making employees responsible or liable? Journal of Business Ethics 82:107–118.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-007-9565-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores if whistleblower policies have led to individual empowerment (“moral autonomy”) or if they serve as another way for organizations to control employees by providing a mechanism that could hold them liable if they do not report claims internally.

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Ethics

Some works of business scholarship, like Hoffman and Schwartz 2015, believe that reporting wrongdoing to the press instead of internally can be unethical. For Vinten 1994, whether the act is ethical or not is tied to the individual’s motives for the disclosure. Decker and Calo 2007 documents the ethical evaluations people make of whistleblower and executives during a scandal. Finally, Marlin 2011 and Somerville 2010 take opposing positions on the ethical nature of WikiLeaks, an organization which publishes leaked documents. Marlin 2011 argues that by serving fact, and, therefore, truth, WikiLeaks was morally correct. Somerville 2010, however, feels strongly that the uninterpreted disclosure did little to further the public good.

  • Decker, Wayne H., and Thomas J. Calo. 2007. Observers’ impressions of unethical persons and whistleblowers. Journal of Business Ethics 76:309–318.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-006-9283-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A student sample was asked to evaluate whistleblowers and executives. Women rated the whistleblower more favorably and the executives less favorably than men. The perceived consequence of the wrongdoing also moderated perceptions of each.

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  • Hoffman, W. Michael, and Mark S. Schwartz. 2015. The morality of whistleblowing: A commentary on Richard T. De George. Journal of Business Ethics 127:771–781.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-014-2186-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Revisits the classic textbook Business Ethics by Richard T. De George, first published in 1982, arguing it is not always ethical to blow the whistle external to an organization. The authors argue that organizations also have an ethical obligation to create safe whistleblowing protocols internally to temper the need to take complaints outside the company.

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  • Marlin, R. 2011. Propaganda and the ethics of WikiLeaks. Global Media Journal 5.1: 1–8.

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    A counterpoint to Somerville, Marlin argues WikiLeaks is ethical on the grounds that information is often distorted through interpretation, WikiLeaks’ reliance on unfiltered data presents a higher standard of truth than what is provided by governments and mainstream media.

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  • Somerville, Margaret. 2010. WikiLeaks: An Ethical Analysis. MercatorNet (12 November).

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    An ethicist, Somerville argues that WikiLeaks and Assange acted unethically in posting leaked documents from the US government. She argues that the leak harmed social capital between countries and aided factions already targeting the United States and its allies. They did not serve a greater good. Originally published by Cardus.

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  • Vinten, Gerald, ed. 1994. Whistleblowing: Subversion or corporate citizenship. New York: Saint Martin’s.

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    A collection of analyses of whistleblowing in the United States and the United Kingdom. There is an emphasis on ethical frameworks that receivers of information can use to assess the whistleblower and his or her motives.

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Legal Protections and Consequences

The United States and other liberal democracies have the most expansive whistleblower protections and incentives. Brown 2007 and Brown 2011 detail the limits of this legislation, on the grounds that journalists and whistleblowers are not adequately protected. Peters 2011 argues that the US press has special protections under reporter’s privilege and that the privilege would likely not apply to secret document sites like WikiLeaks. Benkler 2011, however, warns it is unclear what protection the traditional press has in cases where it collaborates with alternative data sites like WikiLeaks that have classified information. Finally, Sales 2015 believes the law isn’t enough deterrent to protect classified information and that the best way to deter leaks is to make information harder to get.

  • Benkler, Yochai. 2011. A free irresponsible press: Wikileaks and the battle over the soul of the networked Fourth Estate. Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 46:311–397.

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    Argues that WikiLeaks is substantially different from traditional US media and would therefore not be covered under the First Amendment. Collaboration between traditional media and the so-called “networked Fourth Estate” could be risky legally for such media.

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  • Brown, A. J. 2007. Privacy and the public interest disclosure: When is it reasonable to protect “whistleblowing” to the media? Privacy Law Bulletin 4.2: 19–26.

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    Argues for modifications to Australian law such that public disclosures to journalists do not effect an individual’s whistleblower protection.

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  • Brown, A. J. 2011. Weeding out WikiLeaks (and why it won’t work): Legislative recognition of public whistleblowing in Australia. Global Media Journal 5.1.

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    Explores how non-mainstream media websites like WikiLeaks threaten to upend the whistleblower process. Argues that threats by governments to prosecute such sites for espionage create a dangerous precedent that harms whistleblowers and any organization seeking to entice their complaints. Expresses doubts about current shield laws in the United States and in Australia to protect whistleblowers and their support organizations.

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  • Peters, Jonathan. 2011. WikiLeaks would not qualify to claim federal reporter’s privilege in any form. Federal Communication Law Journal 26.3: 667–696.

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    Explores whether or not WikiLeaks could be protected under reporter’s privilege in the United States, thus not be required to reveal the sources of its data. Provides background of reporter’s privilege. Argues WikiLeaks would not qualify because it is not investigative reporting and does not adequately minimize harm.

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  • Sales, Nathan Alexander. 2015. Can technology prevent leaks? Journal of National Security Law & Policy 8.1: 1–27.

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    Descriptive essay explores how to prevent leaks, arguing that criminal prosecutions are not significant deterrents. Sales suggests the financial cost necessary to leak is a deterrent that could be better capitalized on by using more expensive, more complicated technologies. He also suggests regulating through code, access to information, and network audits.

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Whistleblowers and Journalists

Some of journalism’s greatest triumphs are the direct result of whistleblowers. They showcase the profession’s ability to function as a public watchdog. Most often journalists work with government whistleblowers more than whistleblowers in the private sector, as described in Wahl-Jorgensen and Hunt 2012. Again, the rise of nontraditional digital websites hosting information provided by whistleblowers has shifted the discussion over whether traditional news organizations can retain relevance and complete with “leak publishers.” As Dreyfus, et al. 2011 and Mazumda 2013 describe, sites like WikiLeaks are potentially good for journalists because they provide information they can use without having to worry about who and where it came from. On the other hand, as Dreyfus, et al. 2013, notes, individuals uploading to these sites may not realize exactly what they are getting themselves into. Finally, Christensen 2014, Coddington 2012, and the special issue of Global Media Journal, WikiLeaks: Journalism and the 21st Century Media Landscape (Hart and Castillo 2001), discuss the ways in which traditional news organizations complement and sometimes complicate the rise of “leak publishers.” Whistleblowers (Wilson 2015) is an anthology of articles published around the rise of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden.

  • Christensen, Christian. 2014. A decade of WikiLeaks: So what? International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics 10.3: 273–284.

    DOI: 10.1386/macp.10.3.273_1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Tracks WikiLeaks from its inception as an alternative website to a mainstream media collaborator and activist organization. Argues that practitioners and scholars should recognize the evolving cultural significance and transformation of themselves, their fields, and WikiLeaks.

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  • Coddington, Mark. 2012. Defending a paradigm by patrolling a boundary: Two global newspapers’ approach to WikiLeaks. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 89.3: 377–396.

    DOI: 10.1177/1077699012447918Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Textual analysis of the New York Times and the Guardian coverage of WikiLeaks in 2010–2011. The Times indicated the practices of WikiLeaks were outside the norms of traditional journalism. Guardian coverage was more favorable.

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  • Dreyfus, Suelette, Reeva Lederman, Rachelle Bosua, and Simon Milton. 2011. Can we handle the truth? Whistleblowing to the media in the digital age. Global Media Journal 5.1.

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    Explores the impact of WikiLeaks. Compares the disclosures of the site to the Pentagon Papers. Celebrates the establishment of other so-called “leak publishers” for challenging assumptions about national security when it appears mainstream media are unwilling or unable on their own.

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  • Dreyfus, Suelette, Reeva Lederman, Rachelle Bosua, Simon Milton, Andrew Clausen, and Jessie Schanzle. 2013. Human sources: The journalist and the whistle-blower in the digital era. In Journalism Research and Investigation in a Digital World. Edited by Stephen Tanner and Nick Richardson, 48–61. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    A study of journalists and their whistleblowers in eleven countries. Results show that whistleblowers who contact journalists often do so for altruistic reasons, for personal gain, or to foster revenge. Suggests ways whistleblowers might not be aware of the risk of their actions and advises journalists to set ground rules and expectations.

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  • Hart, Cohen and Antonio Castillo, eds. 2001. Special Issue: WikiLeaks: Journalism and the 21st century media landscape. Global Media Journal 5.1.

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    This online journal is hosted by the School of Humanities and Communication Art at the University of Western Sydney. Includes eight refereed papers, three essays, and book reviews related to WikiLeaks.

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  • Mazumda, Suruchi. 2013. Whistleblowers: More threatened than threatening? Media Asia 40.3 (September): 198–203.

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    Reviews varying protections afforded to whistleblowers in western liberal democracies and Asia. Argues that social media platforms provide an alternative platform for whistleblowing outside mainstream media.

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  • Wahl-Jorgensen, K., and Joanne Hunt. 2012. Journalism, accountability and the possibilities for structural critique: A case study of coverage of whistleblowing. Journalism 13.4: 399–416.

    DOI: 10.1177/1464884912439135Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The results of a content analysis of UK newspapers from 1997 to 2009 demonstrated that whistleblowers are often favorably portrayed in the press. Journalists were more likely to focus attention on whistleblowers in the government or public organizations over whistleblower in private companies. The authors suggest this tendency is a result of journalism’s devotion to function as a watchdog serving the public interest.

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  • Wilson, H. W., comp. 2015. Whistleblowers. Reference Shelf 87.2. Amenia, NY: Grey House.

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    A printed collection of news articles about whistleblowing and whistleblowers in US publications between 2013 and 2015. Selections from the New York Times, The Huffington Post, the Government Accountability Project, and others. Government whistleblowers are overrepresented. Multiple entries on Edward Snowden.

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Anonymity and Trust

A successful collaboration between a journalist and whistleblower is based on mutual trust and often confidentiality and anonymity in order to protect the whistleblower. Rains and Scott 2007 describes the calculations receivers of information, both journalists and audience members, make when confronted with anonymous information. Flynn 2006 argues that journalists are often ill-prepared to counsel would-be whistleblowers. Hollings 2011 and Huxford and Moore 2011 both offer recommendations to establish fair communication cognizant of the risk and naiveté of whistleblowers.

  • Flynn, Kathryn. 2006. Covert disclosures: Unauthorized leaking, public officials and the public sphere. Journalism Studies 7.2: 256–273.

    DOI: 10.1080/14616700500533577Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Providing information to journalists comes at a greater cost to whistleblowers than leakers. Therefore, whistleblowers require trust, and often anonymity, for personal protection. Data provided by Australian journalists and leakers.

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  • Hollings, James. 2011. The informed commitment model: Best practice for journalists engaging with reluctant, vulnerable sources and whistle-blowers. Pacific Journalism Review 17.1 (May): 67–89.

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    Uses theory from persuasion and social psychology to explicate the source-journalist relationship based on interviews with whistleblowers and journalists in New Zealand. Whistleblowers said as important as making the decision to speak out was deciding who to speak to. Emotion also played a role.

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  • Huxford, John, and Maria A. Moore. 2011. Teaching journalism students about confidential whistleblower sources: An analysis of introductory new writing textbooks. Journal of College Teaching & Learning 8.10 (October): 1–16.

    DOI: 10.19030/tlc.v8i10.6107Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the top six journalism textbooks in the United States to survey their characterizations and advice to students about working with whistleblowers. The authors find a lack of specific instructions and suggest students consider working with third parties, conceptualize a range of anonymous sources, and consider the motives of whistleblowers.

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  • Rains, Stephen A., and Craig R. Scott. 2007. To identify or not to identify: A theoretical model of receiver responses to anonymous communication. Communication Theory 17:61–91.

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    Proposes a model for how individuals process anonymous information. Argues acceptance of anonymous information is partially related to the content of the message and the ability and desire of the receiver to identify the source. Can be applied to mass and interpersonal communication.

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International Studies

Given the relationship between whistleblowing and democracy, it is no wonder there are fewer whistleblowers in countries with authoritarian governments and government controlled media. Bashir, et al. 2011; Hüttl and Lederer 2013; and Worth 2013 show, however, that whistleblowing isn’t widely accepted by the public as a good idea in many developing countries. Transparency International is determined to make it so, casting it as a form of freedom of expression, and offering specific ideas to institutional whistleblower reporting. Hassink, et al. 2007 analyzes the whistleblower policies of top European countries and found that even though the policies existed, the specific protections for whistleblowers were unclear, raising questions about the policies’ efficacy.

Organizations

There are several national and international organizations like Transparency International––The Global Coalition against Corruption and the Whistleblowing International Network that offer practical advice and guidance to whistleblowers and, in the case of the Investigative Reporters & Editors Association, journalists working with whistleblowers.

Notable Whistleblowers

In rare cases, whistleblowers with explosive information can achieve a level of celebrity. Even still, they remain at risk as targets for retaliation. Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and the Washington Post during the Vietnam War, and gives an account of this in Ellsberg 2003. Jeffrey Wigand tattled on the tobacco industry on 60 Minutes and became the subject of a popular film, The Insider. Leigh and Harding 2011 is about the authors’ experience with the enigmatic Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and director Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald chronicled their trepidation in meeting and working with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Citizenfour (Poitras 2014) and Greenwald 2014, respectively. McCurdy 2013 and Papandrea 2014 are useful because they offer historical comparisons of whistleblowers over time through the WikiLeaks publication of documents from whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

  • Ellsberg, Daniel. 2003. Secrets: A memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York: Penguin.

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    An autobiographical account of how Ellsberg was transformed from a government employee to an outspoken critic and whistleblower during the Vietnam War.

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  • Greenwald, Glenn. 2014. No place to hide. New York: Metropolitan.

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    First-person description of this lawyer turned journalist’s initial contact with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, including detailed accounts of their attempts to communicate outside government surveillance.

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  • Leigh, David, and Luke Harding. 2011. WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy. London: Guardian Books.

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    Story of the rise of WikiLeaks and its leader Julian Assange as told by two Guardian journalists. Describes WikiLeaks’ collaboration with the newspaper. Includes a seventy-five-page appendix of selected cables from the US embassy cables.

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  • Mann, Michael, dir. 2000. The Insider. 1999. DVD. Directed by Michael Mann. Touchstone Home Entertainment.

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    Movie based on real-life whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand. Depicts his relationship working with CBS 60 Minutes to document unethical practices in the tobacco industry.

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  • McCurdy, Patrick. 2013. From the Pentagon Papers to Cablegate: How the network society has changed leaking. In Beyond WikiLeaks. Edited by Benedetta Brevini, Arne Hintz, and Patrick McCurdy, 123–145. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137275745_8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Describes similarities between the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg and WikiLeaks and Chelsea Manning. Argues that who leaks and how they do so is a product of network society. Although Manning faced a harsher legal fate than Ellsberg, the author believes the future will look kindly on Manning.

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  • Papandrea, Mary-Rose. 2014. Leaker traitor whistleblower spy: National security leaks and the First Amendment. Boston University Law Review 94:449–544.

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    A historical legal analysis of how the United States has persecuted leaks and whistleblowers. Argues there is a legal precedent for protecting whistleblowers who act with the intention of contributing to public debate, and spies who give national security secrets to foreign entities to be used to their advantage.

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  • Poitras, Laura, dir. Citizenfour. 2014. Praxis Films.

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    Cinema-verite of Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald meeting Edward Snowden in a hotel room in Hong Kong and reviewing classified documents.

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