When a private company publicizes the results of its own research study, how do we know it's for real and not just self-promotion...?
As a contributing writer to The Business Journal, my editor recently asked me to write an article based on the results of a study conducted by a private training company. She had received a news release about the topic in question and I contacted the media contact - a publicist - who then turned me onto the company's principal.
The study's results were intriguing and would certainly have been excellent fodder for the meat and potatoes of the article. When I asked for a copy of the study, the principal sent me links to pages on the company Web site that showed the study's brief summary results.
When I asked for a copy of the full study (so I could extrapolate findings of my choice and to verify the existence of the study), I never heard back. Responses to my inquiry, up to that point, had been fairly swift, but once I asked for the full study, that was the end of communication.
Now, in all fairness, it's possible that something happened. Maybe the principal got kidnapped by a cannibal tribe on a business trip to a third-world country, or maybe his laptop got run over by a bus. Hey, I'm open to any number of simple explanations why I never heard from him again.
But, I admit to feeling duped. This study had apparently been mentioned in countless articles in major national business publications, so I thought it had to be bona fide. Maybe I'm being cynical, but what if it wasn't? What if it was a sham - a way for this company to promote itself with data many business people would find fascinating? What if the study was non-existent, or conducted with fewer participants than would typically be acceptable? I wonder, with all the studies and news releases that flourish at major publications, do reporters always fact-check?
In the end, I didn't use the study as part of the article. I couldn't ethically include the information without having some sort of confirmation that it was real. I did interview local experts on the subject and used other published statistics.
I'm curious to know what you think about this. Do you think I overreacted or was I right in passing on the study's results?
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