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September 18, 2013

Earlier today, I had the pleasure to sit in on a discussion with a whistleblower.

For those who don’t know, a whistleblower is any person who is known to have exposed something bad that is going on which is covered up. A lot of times, these situations take place with large corporations who are trying to make themselves look better and to not give themselves a bad name.

The whistleblower I met with this morning was Wilma Subra. She is credited with having broken the story about the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill and exposing the horrible conditions that the residents and workers in the Louisiana coastal region were experiencing.

The term “whistleblower” seems to have come into the public spotlight much more recently, especially with the case involving Edward Snowden and the NSA information leaks. Snowden was the whistleblower in that event and exposed to the public how much the NSA is truly spying on American citizens.

Although it seems as if the term has just suddenly arisen, the actual act of whistleblowing by journalists has been going on for a long time. It really encompasses any investigative journalist, and can be traced back to the very early 1900’s when the term was “muckraking” and eventually evolved into watchdog journalism

While the term has changed over the years, the act has remained the same. Reporters are constantly exposing things that are going on to the public. The earliest and one of the most well-known pieces of whistleblowing came in Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel, The Jungle. In this novel, Sinclair wanted to show the life of immigrants in the United States, and effectively exposed the unacceptable conditions in meat packing facilities in this country.

Whistleblowers were also very integral during Watergate in the 1970’s when Richard Nixon was president of the United States. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were the reporters who broke the information to the public about the involvement of Nixon’s administration at the 1972 Democratic National Committee offices. There were also other cases of whistleblowing which took place in the 70’s when Nixon was in office.

Like others, I believe that whistleblowers play a very important role as journalists. These reporters expose the wrong that is going on in this country, and bring it to the attention of the public. In most cases, this is information which has largely been covered up by the corporations or parties who are responsible for it and it has also been harmful to others and has been covered up for that reason. In my mind, whistleblowers are necessary when it comes to news equality. This is also a very risky and dangerous job for those who choose to report these wrongdoings. But, in this country, where I believe that Americans have a right to know what is going on, whistleblowers continue to bring the real story.

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