Our team has not received Institutional Review Board approval and, therefore, cannot interview any human subject for our research project until the university agrees that our work is not likely to harm them. Of course this includes our target audience – corporate leaders. However, we are allowed to speak with people who are considered a “convenience sample.” As journalism students we are well connected enough to pick from a large convenience sample.
This week we were lucky enough to be visited by an investigative reporter from the Miami Herald, Jacqueline Charles, who has experience reporting and exposing corruption. She agreed that our approach to dealing with corruption was unique and was able to give us the direction we desperately needed on where to start researching. We began looking in to the Department of Justice reports on corrupt practices by companies. These public records gave us an idea of the companies we could eventually talk to after we have our IRB approval.
We also met with Dr. Ron Strauss, executive vice provost and chief international officer at UNC-Chapel Hill. After pitching our idea to Strauss, he reminded us of the independent voice. “Students are some of the brashest voices we have,” he said. That is, while most corporate companies have their own in-house counsel, what they do not have a cultural voice. This is the niche that we decided was missing as well as viable and desirable product we could offer.
After these conversations we learned two things: one, where to start looking for companies that we could talk to and, two, a direction we could take with our product. We realized the full power of students and the wonderful range of schools that UNC is connected to that we could pull from. We want our product to have honest and open conversations but we also realize that we have to protect our clients, which would be the companies that may or may not be in legal trouble in other nations.
This is our next challenge: How do we offer a product that intersects the independent voice (of students or others) as well as protect the privacy and help companies flourish in corrupt cultures?