A Matter Of Trust

Steven Glass

60 Minutes Interview

Last night I was over at my friends’ house for Sunday Night Supper Club, Abridged Version.  We decided to order a pizza and watch a movie, instead of going out to eat.  After discussing the selection for a long, drawn out time, we all agreed to watch Shattered Glass. I had only a vague recollection of this movie and was not entirely sure what it was about.  Even after reading the synopsis on the dvd case, I still was not sure.  However, over the course of the next 90 minutes, it became abundantly clear what the film was about, at least to me.  If you are not familiar with the story of Shattered Glass, as I was not, here is a very brief summary:

Steven Glass is a journalistic prodigy at The New Republic.  He writes blockbuster story after blockbuster story until one article he writes catches the attention of Forbes tech writers.  After doing their own investigating they discover that Mr. Glass has some serious problems with his research.

I am not going to share the rest of the movie with you, as that would be spoiling the plot.  And, with the exception of Hayden Christiansen, who in my opinion cannot act, the movie was decent.  Oh, did I mention this was based on a true story?

For those who are visual, here is the trailer.

The cast is decent, but no real heavy weights of the acting community.  However, a movie review and critique is not the point of this post.  Though I could give it a very good critique, starting with how can in my opinion Hayden Christiansen can not act.  But I digress.  The point of the movie, at least in my humble opinion was more moving than the movie itself.  This semester in school I am taking a Media Ethics class.  This movie hit me over the head with a dozen bricks.  Ultimately, what this movie questions is the ethics of journalism.  What some people will do to get ahead and the ramifications of not adhering to strict code of ethics are at the center of this film.  Instead of focusing on what was done, I want to look at how issues of journalistic ethical misconduct can be avoided.

In the years since the incident with Steve Glass took place, the internet has taken over as one of the largest news and journalistic clearing houses in the world. Anyone can post anything they want on the internet, claim it to be news and the ball starts rolling. There is something missing.  Bloggers and folks who run their own websites are missing a code of ethics.  Steve Glass got caught, Jayson Blair got caught, how many have not been caught?  Is what Matt Drudge posts on his webpage ethical? For that matter, is what Parez Hilton posts ethical?  Yes, they are entertaining to read, but is it ethically right for either of them or for that matter other websites to blatantly make up stories about people knowing full well that they are false?  Can they be called journalists?  Should they be called journalists? What about bloggers?  Can a blogger be called a journalist?  If a blogger wants to be called a journalist, then should he or she have to adhere to the same code of ethics as say Brian Williams, Katie Couric or Wolf Blitzer? I am not one for the censorship of the press or of people in general.

Free speech is a guaranteed right in our constitution it is the cornerstone of our democracy.  However, with that right of comes a great responsibility.  It is my belief that we, as a nation, have forgotten that responsibility.  We owe it our forefathers and the brave men and women who have fought to keep this nation free.  The only way to repay the sacrifice of our forefathers and our military is to uphold the highest of ethics.  That goes for our governing officials as well.   Campaigns have become circuses and in the center ring is the contest to see who can take out his or her opponent the quickest and with biggest bang.  If we expect our journalists to adhere to their code of ethics, why is it we allow politicians to get away with much worse, yet we continually vote to re-elect them year after year.  It isn’t until they are caught doing something absolutely repugnant do we finally put our foot down. Usually, it isn’t even the electorate that decides when enough is enough.  It is the politician himself that decides. But, usually after months and months or sometimes years after the ethics issues have been raised.

We expect the best from those who are in positions of power; whether they are the journalists who deliver the news or the news makers themselves.  We want to be able to look up those people and put them back on their pedestals, but the game prevents that.  The media always promises to uphold the highest standards or journalistic integrity, yet you turn on Fox News and they are courting the right neo-conservative audience and you turn on MSNBC and they are usually courting the liberal left.   How can either of those stations pretend to be “fair and balanced?”  Granted, they are at times entertaining to watch, the best news to watch is still you local news and the network news at 6:30.  They may not offer all of the answers you seek, but at least they get the story to the public in a seemingly unbiased and upfront manner. Now, if only we could get our politicians to unbiased and upfront.

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