Shattered Glass and Credibility in Journalism

I’m a journalism buff and enjoy reading the stories behind the stories that appear on Page One of the Times, Journal, Chronicle, etc. When the Jayson Blair scandal broke last year I followed it very closely and was shocked at how much coverage the Times itself gave to its own fallacy. Like most people, I was incredulous at how one reporter could dupe so many editors so many times over. When Howell Raines, former executive editor at the Times, published his tell-all in the Atlantic Monthly in May, which was excellent, it opened my eyes to how the Times works internally.

Last night I was at my local video store renting Searching for Bobby Fisher which I have seen a million times but was going to watch again with a friend with whom I play chess. I learned about the 2 for 1 Thursday night special and got Shattered Glass too. Shattered Glass is about the reporter from the New Republic magazine who fabricated dozens of stories for the New Republic and for other magazines like Harpers and Slate. Bottom line: this movie is a winner. Many parts of the movie are taken verbatim from what really happened as the scandal unfolded. The DVD version includes director and Chuck Lane (the editor who busted the reporter) commentary recorded over the entire movie (so you watch the movie and then watch it all over again with their commentary). Fascinating.

It was Forbes Online that originally uncovered the lies of Stephen Glass and it was quite a breakthrough for internet journalists in taking on such an institution like the New Republic. In fact, I think that is is bloggers and internet journalists who are a real force is causing print columnists to get desperate. With the web people can break stories and commentary on-the-fly and, like in blogs, receive an extraordinary amount of feedback which makes the content very compelling. Print journalists must rely on exhaustive research, naunce, and the benefit of lots of resources to churn out content that is different and better than web journalism.

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