Last semester I took a class on critical ethnography, which is aimed at producing a body of work that does more than further the career of the anthropologist. Critical ethnography focuses on conducting and publishing research that benefits as many research participants as possible, puts the needs of the participating community first, and engages the participants at every level of the research - from the initial planning to fieldwork and interviews to final publication. For me, it is important to conduct research that the community with which I work deems is appropriate and accurate. I am also trying to find a way for a local fighter practice to be set up on LSU's campus so that the local group can attract interested young people and perhaps establish a dialogue with "professional" historians about their "amateur" research - which isn't amateur at all. I also continuously ask people what they think of my project, what they think I should change about it, and other questions like that. I also send raw and first-edit transcriptions to interviewees so that we can work out - together - how they want to represented in my final writing. I've also sent out copies of my final papers so that people can critique it, make sure I got everything right, and essentially approve what I've said.
I think that this is the only way to conduct good, responsible research that is not inherenty plagiaristic or overly opportunistic. I think that a dialogue between researcher & collaborators is very important and should be a requirement of everyone who interviews others with the intent of publishing those people's words, ideas, opinions, and life stories. Journalism would benefit greatly from a little injection of anthropology into its practice as a field. Today, waiting for my archaeology class to begin, I saw one of my classmates - a master's student whom I know is in the forensic's program and is in several other classes with me - pass out copies of the legacy (which I assume was just recently published) to a few of her friends in the class, simultaneously instructing them to go to page 15. They read a few things from the article, and I realized that she - the master's student in forensics - was featured in the legacy. She pointed out several phrases quoted of her and expressed a decent amount of dissatisfaction and disapproval of how she was represented. At one point she stated that her interview had been over two hour long, yet the journalist had chosen to use her quotes that she felt were the most sensational and made her seem umemotional, detached, and a pretty cold person.
I had an extreme urge to go up to her - even though I wasn't directly involved in the conversation - and tell her that she needed to approach the journalist, express her feelings and demand a retractment of the article, or at least clarification in either the Revielle or a future Legacy issue. I, of course, abstained from this. But, all I could think about was how people should have more control over how they are represented to the public, and how journalists, as agents of mass/public media desperately need to adopt a few basic tenents of anthropology. Later, I read the article and agreed that the quotations used made my classmate seem harsher, more agressive and unemotional than was necessary. I don't know what else she said in the interview, but I'm sure that she would have chosen different passages to quote.
Then I thought about responsible journalism - journalists that engage in a dialogue with interviewees about their representation before publication. And, unfortunately, I came to the conclusion that in our fast-paced world dominated by deadlines and the internet, this would be impossible. Slowing down the system is not an option, even it if empowers people and allows them to control their public identity. Can you imagine the editor in cheif of any major media publication - Time magazine, the Times Picayune - agreeing to slow down their businesses in order to empower anybody? I can't. But, I can hope that enough of our future journalists will take an anthropology class or two, learn about ethnocentrism, human origins, gender trouble, and maybe how to conduct responsible research.