Progressive institutions such as the Wellcome Sanger Institute, where we work, implement anti-bullying policies that support independent investigations into whistle-blowers’ allegations and empower staff to report concerns. However, media coverage of such disputes can be damaging if it is one-sided (Nature 563, 304–305; 2018). It can render the conclusions of the independent investigation irrelevant to public opinion. A potentially constructive process then adversely affects the reputation of the institution, its staff and their research.
Whistle-blowing allegations cannot be fairly scrutinized in public owing to their complexity, and to legal-privacy protections. Narratives that readily garner the media spotlight risk eclipsing grievances that warrant individualized, rigorous and compassionate redress.
To help ensure that new anti-bullying policies are successful, media coverage needs to be sensitive and balanced, and those who produce it should be aware of its impact.
Nature 564, 190 (2018)