Whistleblowers, journalists share lessons learned at BBC

The “What If Nobody Listened? How Whistleblowers and Journalists Expose Corruption, Skullduggery and Injustices” two-day program the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) presented Feb. 8-9 had important takeaways for students in attendance. Some found the event to be inspirational, while others thought the stories they heard were informational and enlightening.

Whistleblowers Jon Oberg (left) and Frank Casey join "Miami Herald" investigative reporter Carol Marbin on stage to discuss their experiences with FIU students and faculty.

For two days, SJMC Dean Raul Reis, professor and Honors Fellow Fred Blevens and other SJMC faculty hosted a group of whistleblowers and journalists who discussed the importance of how partnerships between the two effect change by exposing corruption.

The program presented at both FIU campuses marked the second 2012 stop of the American Whistleblower Tour. The tour is an outreach effort of the Government Accountability Project to educate the public about whistleblowing as well as the support resources at their disposal.

Speakers participating in this stop of the tour included Howard Wasserman, an FIU Law professor, and former CNN investigative reporter Mark Feldstein. In addition to sharing their experiences during panels, they also visited  classes in the College of Law and the schools of Journalism and Mass Communication, Accounting and International & Public Affairs .

On the schedule for Feb. 9, at the Mary Ann Wolfe Theatre at Biscayne Bay Campus, was a panel titled “No Secrets: How Whistleblowers and Journalists Have Changed the World.” A full house listened to Frank Casey, one of the Fox Hound whistleblowers who exposed Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. They also heard from Jon Oberg, the former Department of Education official who exposed the banks participating in student loan fraud. Both  shared their stories and reasons for taking action.

Providing the journalist’s perspective was Carol Marbin, a Miami Herald investigative reporter, who said the journalist’s role is “to provide a road map from here to there…to the truth.”

For Davon Johnson, a 21-year-old senior in Neil Reisner’s news reporting class, listening to the panelists, especially Miller, gave him a new idea about what he would like to do when he graduates.

“I thought the men were brave to put everything on the line to expose the truth,” he said. ”Jon Oberg said he almost didn’t go for it [blowing the whistle], but that he had to because doing nothing would’ve been being part of the problem instead of the solution.

“And the reporter inspired me to do more investigative reporting.”

Stephanie Long, 22, is a classmate of Johnson’s. She found the panel to be “enlightening.”

“I’m not looking to become an investigative reporter,” she said, “but there are a lot of skills from that that I can incorporate into my feature writing.”

Louis Clark, the president of the Government Accountability Project, is hoping the School of Journalism and Mass Communication will further enlighten its students on the topic of whistleblowing.

“It was a pleasure to come to FIU. Students were intrigued by the subject, so we were happy to help demystify the issue,” he said. “And I’ve had conversations with faculty about helping to incorporate a course on whistleblowing into the journalism curriculum – which would be the first in the country – so I feel we’ve been very well received.”