What Is Whistleblowing
and How Do We Study It?
Most of the people described in the Introduction are whistleblowers. Except for the airline pilot who remained silent, the others are designated as "whistleblowers" because they are employees or former employees who report misconduct to persons who have the power to take action (see Miethe and Rothschild 1994; Miceli and Near 1992). Although this definition is fairly general, it is important to recognize that whistleblowing has come to mean so many different things to different people that it defies an unambiguous description. Widely used synonyms such as "snitches," "squealers," "rats," "moles," "finks," "stools," "blabbermouths," "tattletales," "ethical resisters," and "people of conscience" clearly illustrate our diverse perceptions of whistleblowers in U.S. society.
The general definition of whistleblowing used here includes basic elements and implies several other factors that distinguish it from other forms of snitching. The basic ele