Few social researchers study elites because elites, by their nature, are very difficult to access. The contributors to this volume provide valuable insights on how researchers can successfully penetrate elite settings. As the authors reflect on their experiences, they provide constructive advice as well as cautionary tales about how they learned to maneuver and become accepted in a world that is often closed to them. This book's coverage includes three broad research domains: business elites, professional elites, and community and political elites. Although the studies focus on qualitative methodology, even researchers who emphasize more quantitative methods will benefit from this volume's thoughtful observations on how researchers gather data, construct interview strategies, write about their subjects, and experience the research process. A wide range of researchers in organizational studies, sociology, political science, and many other fields will find this volume to be an important guide to the many subtle and elusive features of conducting successful research with these groups.
Chapter 6: Stopping the Spin and Becoming a Prop: Fieldwork on Hollywood Elites
The slightly bizarre experience is often the most instructive. Midway through an interview with a Los Angeles entertainment publicist, in the midst of a project investigating the production of celebrity (Gamson, 1994), I inadvertently rolled my eyes.
I had suggested that his job seemed like a battle with editors and publishers for story control, and the publicist told me that his recent experience negotiating a magazine cover for a “controversial performer” was “very good training for negotiating a hostage release.” “If we can do that,” he continued, “we can get the hostages out of Lebanon.” I pushed him. Doesn't public relations involve fabricating or manipulating ...