A Note on Access

Ethnographic observation and in-depth interviews provide valuable insight into how companies operate. However, it can be difficult to obtain access to corporate environments, and compromises are sometimes necessary to make such research possible. I was given access to Chartbeat on two conditions: first, that I would not share clients’ names or data; second, that I would allow the company to review all direct quotes and transcribed anecdotes from my time at the office. Of the 29 quotes and field-note excerpts I offered for review, Chartbeat left 24 unaltered, removed two altogether, and removed a single line or phrase from three. None of these edits substantially changed the presentation of my findings, and the company did not have advance access to any of my analysis or interpretation of the data. Gawker did not put any such limits on my access: everything I observed or heard in an interview was fair game for publication, except in the rare instances when interview subjects requested that something be off the record. At The Times, I arranged interviews with individual staffers but was not able to conduct observation in the newsroom. I guaranteed anonymity to individuals at all three research sites, so real names and identifying details have been omitted.  

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