Thursday, January 2, 2014

Students Study Verification through Film

Toward the end of the fall semester, the journalism class offered a showing of the film Shattered Glass. Br. Lorenzo Conocido offers this review of the film:

Set in 1998, Shattered Glass tells the true story of how Stephen Glass, a young journalist who fabricated stories for The New Republic, a political magazine, rose to fame and then had a scandalous downfall  by writing fictional stories and characters, faking quotations, making up companies and even creating a website to support his articles.  His last piece, "Hacker Haven" caught the attention of a reporter for Forbes online magazine, and the reporter started verifying the facts and found it unverifiable, for nothing in the article did actually exist in the first place.

The movie takes us into the world of publication and journalism, providing a glimpse of the workplace politics, office factions, backbiting, and yes, the moral issue of lying in the field where truth must come first.  Being young and charismatic, Glass was able to circumvent the process of verification by manipulating information, seeking protection from co-workers, and abusing the editor-writer relationship. This worked until Chuck Lane, the newly-promoted editor, finds no reason to protect his man but rather does his duty to chase after the truth.

This is what happens when creativity and ambition have gone to the extremes.  Glass was a good writer, but perhaps not in the field of journalism.  He broke every single element of journalism as proposed by Kovach and Rosenstiel beginning with the very foundation - the truth.  All the articles he wrote weren't for the benefit of the citizens but rather for personal ecstasy.  Nothing can be verified, for how can you verify something that does not exist?  All the rest of the elements just crumbled apart.

The majority of the movie revolves around Lane, Glass and the Forbes team and the journalistic verification process that finally revealed an embarrassing truth, if not scandalous, ending.  One person that caught my attention is Caitlyn, a pivotal character towards the conclusion of the investigative drama.  She brought the point concerning how a personal relationship can become more of an obstacle to the truth, but later she realized she had a greater responsibility to the public and most especially to her conscience more than anybody else.  In the end, she is one of the staff who went public to apologize to the citizens, their real bosses, and retracted all the articles written by Glass that had been published by The New Republic.

What's not clear to me in the move was Glass' motive for inventing his stories.  Was he setting up the stones for him to get to the top?  Was he trying to bring the magazine down? Or was he just mentally ill?  Taking the latter seems to be too convenient.  The DVD contained his interview with 60 Minutes, and he publicly admitted that he's a pathological liar and that he has a mental health issue that he will have to battle with. Well, coming from him, that last statement will surely need further verification.

No comments:

Post a Comment