Bioethics Blogs

University Research and Journalism: Distinctions Without Differences

Google Scholar belatedly alerts me a 2014 article in which two philosophers of education seek to distinguish investigative journalism from university-sponsored community research. They suggest it makes sense to require IRB oversight of the latter but not the former, but their arguments rest on factually doubtful claims of uncertain relevance, and they fail to show that IRB oversight makes sense for either type of research.

[Anne Newman and Ronald David Glass, “Comparing Ethical and Epistemic Standards for Investigative Journalists and Equity-Oriented Collaborative Community-Based Researchers: Why Working for a University Matters,” Journal of Higher Education 85, no. 3 (2014): 283–311, doi:10.1353/jhe.2014.0013.]

As noted on this blog, many IRB apologists are sufficiently steeped in American traditions of freedom of the press to avoid calling for IRB oversight of journalism. Some, like James Weinstein, try to distinguish the two by disparaging social science as focusing on “subjects not of public concern.” Others, like Martin Meeker, take the opposite stance, suggesting that journalism is too full of “blatant bias and even hyperbole” to be taken seriously.

Though they don’t cite Meeker, Newman and Glass follow his line and attack Weinstein, arguing that equity-oriented collaborative community-based research (EOCCBR) does indeed address “policy issues that are undoubtedly matters of public concern (e.g., drinking water contamination, mentoring programs for parolees, civic engagement of low-income racialized youth).” How then, can they justify prior restraint?

Silly Claim 1: Reporters Don’t Disclose Methodology

Newman and Glass’s article is long and somewhat rambling, so I’m not sure how many distinctions they hope to draw between university research and journalism.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.