Have you ever thought of the journalist’s depiction? Maybe you had through stories about journalist or through movies. As a matter of fact Hollywood movies are often at the origin of myths and ideals through the story they tell or the picture they draw of people, places, jobs etc. I wanted to find a movie based on journalism to see how journalists are painted and I found the movie « Shattered Glass ».
Shattered Glass is an American movie from 2003 that relates the true story of Stephen Glass; an American journalist and reporter mostly in the political newspaper The New Republic in Washington DC. He worked there from 1995 until 1998, and was considered as a young raising star because of his writing talents and his young age (he was only 25 when he starts in the newspaper). However it’s in 1998 that he became known in the U.S when the truth about him came to light: it was discovered that 27 stories out of 41 were either partially or completely made up. He did not just incorporate false quotes, but also people, events, places, companies; and to make sure that all of that seem credible he created himself some notes, voicemails, faxes and even a website. As it is based on a true story, the picture given is a true one, but it also means that as it shows a particular case, it is not making a generalization on every journalists.
Glass’ descent into hell
So we can now wonder how did someone found out about all his lies if he was that much precautious? His last article, also the one who let the scandal out, was about Ian Restil, a 15-year old boy, who was said to have hacked Jukt Micronics’ computer network before being hired by this company because of his break into their software. After this story, Adam Penenberg, reporter at Forbes, chose to verify the accuracy and the truth of this story to only discover that there was no evidence that any of the people and the company that were mentioned exist. That’s when the journalist began its descent into hell, firstly when the reporter confronted him with his discoveries, continuing with his dismissal from the newspaper and finally the discovery that at least 27 of his stories contained false information.
Does it have a link with ethics?
This scandal had had a significant impact on modern journalism, but more particularly on the relation between the journalists and the public because the trust between them had been broken. Even though, we can argue that this story does not really have a link with ethics, and that it was only a person that knew what he was doing was wrong, but kept doing it. Meaning that there is not a problem with ethics but more on Glass’ behaviour and conscience.
Truthiness, Accuracy, Objectivity and Trust
However, even if there was obviously an issue about how Glass acted and wrote, but there was also an ethical issue. Indeed, the journalism’s ethics are based on at least four values: truthiness, accuracy, objectivity and trust; and with his acts, he broke three of them, obviously the truthiness and the accuracy because he made up information, but also the trust because through his articles, a journalist must establish a kind of mutual trust between the writer and the reader. The reader expects these 4 values from the writer, and by not respecting them, he broke the trust and deceived hundreds of thousand of reader.
To learn more :
The official trailer : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTeK1v6Qx_I
Review of the movie by the New York Times : http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9F03E0D71430F932A05753C1A9659C8B63