If you ask someone whether whistleblowers are good or bad, you are going to get very different responses based on who you ask. For example, if you were to ask someone from the government, they would probably say bad. But if you were to ask the editor of a major newspaper, their opinion would be drastically different.
If you recall, some of the major scandals our government has been involved in were exposed by a whistleblower: The Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and the federal government’s massive electronic-surveillance program. You may also recall that a lot of whistleblowers have used newspapers as a way to spread their message, and there is a reason for that.
Despite the importance that whistleblowers hold in our society, they have very little legal protections. There have been acts passed to help with the protection of them, but they are still vulnerable. Whistleblowers face criminal prosecution, lawsuits, and gag orders. And that is not even counting the public repercussions which include humiliation, threats, harassment, and termination.
The saddest part of all is that most whistleblowers attempt to showcase their findings in other ways before going to the press, but they are unsuccessful.
As Alex Veeneman reported in his article, “More than 95 percent of whistleblowers first attempt to solve their issues by raising concerns internally, through their agency’s channels and their management. They only seek outside sources, such as journalists, after their employer fails to address the problem or if they know their complaints will be met with reprisal or inaction.”
The press and whistleblowers have a long history since it is the duty of journalists to report to the public. Therefore, when a whistleblower comes with information exposing the wrongdoings of officials in charge, it is the responsibility of the press to get this information out to the public. Whistleblowers rely on the press as equally as the press relies on whistleblowers for their information.
Since whistleblowers often face so much backlash from exposing their findings, they often asks journalists to remain anonymous. Journalists protect this anonymity at all costs because they can still get the story out. Journalists honor this agreement with their source no matter the cost, which is how so many scandals have come to light.
Veeneman said it best in an article about anonymity with sources and journalists when he said, “An honest approach not only benefits the journalist and the whistleblower, but ultimately it benefits the public — the true beneficiaries of the research and work done by both journalists and whistleblowers — in order to be informed about the world around them and the impact the news has on their daily lives.”
Whistleblowers are a huge part of our history, and they have revealed many important secrets that otherwise would have been left untold. With the people we have in office today, and the mistrust the public already has for this administration, I think it is more important than ever to give whistleblowers protection against legal prosecution, and to protect journalists who help to get their findings out in the public.