With the help of researcher Sue Schuermann, electronic databases were examined to find news stories about corporate crimes and misconduct. These examples were individualized for inclusion in the letters that queried 124 opinion-shapers. The examples, drawn mostly from news reports in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, filled five single-spaced pages.

See “News Stories about Corporate Crime and Misconduct” for examples »
Recipients of these letters included 30 nationally prominent columnists and television and radio talk show commentators, editorial page editors at the six nationally distributed newspapers, and their counterparts at 88 additional leading papers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The letters asked these individuals to let me know whether they had addressed: “1) Corporate crime and misconduct generally” [using the definition in this story], and “2) Specific examples of corporate crime and misconduct.” I wanted their focus to be on recent coverage (during 1998), but also requested that they look back over the past decade as well to come up with examples of such commentary.

Later, I lightened the burden to encourage additional replies, inviting each reluctant respondent to tell me “[S]imply…whether you remember having addressed” the questions in the letter. This helped to some extent, but most of those who hadn’t replied remained mute. My presumption is that many took the easy way out. Is it unreasonable to think that it could be tough for them to deny that their own positions within big corporations sometimes made it difficult to criticize the actions of other big businesses? Or for them to reveal that their owners sometimes imposed their will? Or that careerists, opportunists and survivors sometimes self censor?

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