National Press Club Honors “The Whistleblower”

Here’s a little bit of news for the Whistleblower community to applaud, the National Press Club has chosen to honor “the whistleblower” as part of its Press Freedom Awards this year.

In announcing the award the Press Club took a great step towards acknowledging what we all know, important information has to come from somebody who knows it and decides to do something about it. The Announcement quotes Press Club president, Angela Greiling Keane, of Bloomberg News:

“By conferring its domestic award on ‘The Whistleblower,’ the Club is not only honoring those who have bravely stepped forward to become sources for news stories, often at personal risk to themselves or their careers, it is also recognizing a person whose identity is not yet known — who may be trying to decide whether to speak to a reporter about wrongdoing at a government agency or corporation. In honoring The Whistleblower, the Club is acknowledging that, without sources, reporters can’t do their jobs and our democracy can’t properly function.”

Well that is right and it is a hopeful step.  Indeed, without whistleblowers democracy cannot function.  It’s another reason whistleblowers are heroes to those of us who have the opportunity to represent them.  The one issue that this does create which is tricky for those of us working on qui tam cases within the whistleblower community is to remind people to call a lawyer and figure out what your options are before you contact the press.

Yes the press is important. Yes press freedom should be protected. The First Amendment is, as one famous whistleblower lawyer likes to say, the first whistleblower protection law.  Whistlebowers on the other hand need to know what their rights are and what kind of a case they may have before they take the risk of going public.  So, contacting attorneys makes sense.  If the case involves fraud against the government it may make sense to blow the whistle to the Department of Justice rather than in the news.

There are many kinds of whistleblowers of course who report on matters involving every conceivable kind of wrongdoing.  These truly courageous people who recognize harm being done and attempt to stop it often have few friends.  Indeed they can suffer for informing us of wrongdoing.  It is encouraging to see a major organization like the National Press Club is at least lining up on the right side with whistleblowers.  Hopefully, this step will help improve the popular image of whistleblowers.