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Journal of Business

Economic Crises and Financial Disasters: The Role of Business
Daphne A. Jameson
Journal of Business Communication 2009 46: 499 originally published online 17 June
DOI: 10.1177/0021943609338667
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Association for Business Communication

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The Role of Business Communication
Daphne A. Jameson
Cornell University

Turmoil has rocked the business world this year. Two major global investment banks, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, collapsed. Facing bankruptcy, the world’s largest insurance company, AIG, was bought out by taxpayers. The biggest bank failure in U.S. history occurred when federal regulators seized Washington Mutual. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, a stock market index, has plunged by more than a third this year, decimating retirement funds and college savings. Rates of unemployment and home foreclosures have skyrocketed. Earlier this month, the U.S. Congress passed a $700 billion bailout to try to revive the credit markets and the larger economy. In the wake of this global economic crisis, some of those responsible were summoned to testify under oath before Congressional committees to explain to the public what went wrong. What they said opened a window onto the thought processes and communication abilities of major business leaders. Many of them denied responsibility, failed to explain what occurred, and undermined their own credibility; as a result they were pilloried by Congress and the media (Becker & White, 2008;
Dodd, 2008).
But how are these people connected to those of us who teach and do research in business communication? Unfortunately, these are our alumni, our former students. Most of them took our courses, graduated from our colleges and universities, attended our executive seminars, and sought our consulting advice. They certainly are experienced practitioners of business communication. Did we fail them or did they fail us? Are we as an
Daphne A. Jameson (Ph.D., University of Illinois) delivered this Outstanding Researcher Lecture on
October 30, 2008, at the International Convention of the Association for Business Communication, Lake
Tahoe, CA. She is an associate professor of management communication at Cornell University, School of Hotel Administration, and has served as president of the Association for Business Communication.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Daphne A. Jameson, Statler Hall &
Auditorium, Room 350, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853; e-mail:
Journal of Business Communication, Volume 46, Number 4, October 2009 499-509
DOI: 10.1177/0021943609338667
© 2009 by the Association for Business Communication

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academic field in any way responsible for the recent economic crises, business scandals, and financial disasters?
We know the main arguments that support an answer of “no, we cannot be held responsible” for the actions of our former