We Need a Better Term than Whistleblower


The definition of whistleblower in the Miriam-Webster Dictionary is: one who reveals something covert or who informs against another.

Within that definition, there is nothing that implies ethics, courage or morality on the part of the whistleblower. There is nothing that puts a positive spin on the complex act of whistleblowing, that recognizes the whistleblower is attempting to expose wrongdoing or corruption, that they are speaking out even at the risk of being ostracized, fired, intimidated, criminally charged or worse.

Search for synonyms of whistleblower and the list is long and the definitions unflattering: snitch, stool pigeon, fink, spy, traitor, informer and so on. Who wants to be known as one of those?

Worse yet, we love to hate whistleblowers. F. Diane Barth wrote in Psychology Today that many people have negative feelings toward whistleblowers because we’ve all been taught not to be tattletales, that tattletales are suck-ups trying to curry favor from authorities, and that we have a group mentality to band together to “protect our own” (fraternities, religious groups, unions, professional organizations, etc.)

But without whistleblowers taking personal risks to do what they believe is right, corruption would run rampant in corporations, government agencies, and other organizations. Perhaps a better phrase is run more rampant.

I find whistleblowers heroic. We need more of them. But I find the term whistleblower objectionable. U.S. activist Ralph Nader is said to have coined the term, seeking to avoid the negative connotations associated with words such as informer or snitch, although the whistleblower’s use can be traced back to the nineteenth century when police used whistles to alert the public. Sports referees are also whistle-blowers, using their whistles to call infractions.

However, the negative connotations have carried over. That’s why we need another term for a whistleblower.

Whistleblowers expose wrongdoing. They shine a light on corruption that those in power want to keep hidden. What about the term Lightcaster? Similar to the way a newscaster reports on the day’s news, a lightcaster shines a light on corruption, exposing it for others to see.

“Lightcaster exposes Trump’s attempt to pressure Ukraine to find dirt on his political rival.”

Or Lightmaker, kind of like the popular and positive Rainmaker.

Or a more exotic term: Lumiere, the French word for light. Who wouldn’t rather be known as a Lumiere than a Whistleblower?

What else? What other terms are an improvement on whistleblower?

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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