Pressing matters

Dubby Bhagat


The New York Times had terrible trouble last year when it discovered that one of its reporters was inventing stories and lying in print. This was the second time that the veracity of the American Press came into the limelight in recent years.

A magazine carried an article about a reporter called Stephen Glass who at the age of 24 was at top of his profession as the youngest writer for The New Republic. He was also writing for other hugely popular magazine. Then it was found that he had fabricated stories 27 times. ‘Shattered Glass’ is a film about Stephen his life and times. It is a fast paced, suspenseful movie that explores the character Stephen Glass and goes into the world of journalism.

Hayden Christensen, a Star Wars actor who is 22 years old played Glass but didn’t get a chance to meet him. Christensen plays Glass as a character who makes it by being popular with his peers and making himself well-liked by his superiors. Says Hayden Christensen. ‘’He was someone that was universally seen as being very self-effacing and had a real lack of self-confidence. One of his appeals to the people around him was that they wanted him to do well because he seemed to lack the confidence himself.’’

Directed by firsttimer Billy Ray, the movie has surprise after surprise that carries you along with the plot, with some really great cinematic moments. The great-unanswered question is why did Stephen Glass tell lies? Billy Ray says ‘’Not only do I not know why Stephen Glass did it, I don’t think Stephen Glass knows why Stephen Glass did it. Two is, we made a decision that there was going to be a journalistic standard applied to this movie, and that I wasn’t going to put anything in the movie that I couldn’t absolutely verify. What’s fascinating to me is that having done it, and having been caught that he just keep doing it. That to me is what was so interesting. And that people around him, having recognised that he stepped over that line, continue to defend him. That seems to me to be more important, more filmic, than why he did it.’’

Journalism has invited movies galore. The greatest being ‘All The President’s Men’ (1976) that won 8 Oscar nominations and won 4 Awards. William Goldman got one for the Screenplay and Jason Robards got the Best Supporting Actor. The best Sound Oscar went to 4 people including Jim Webb who in the opening scenes of the movie made the sound of typewriter fast and furious by mixing in sounds of gunshots and whiplashes. George Jenkins won the best Art Direction Oscar by creating the Washington Post’s newsroom in Los Angeles.

‘All The President’s Men’ is the story — completely true — about two journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who set out to investigate a strange break-in at a hotel called Watergate and through a series of confusing and contradictory events unravel a plot that would eventually lead to the downfall of President Richard Nixon. We follow Bob Woodward played by Robert Redford and Carl Bernstein acted by Dustin Hoffman through a series of interviews that sometimes lead nowhere and once in a while, hit pay dirt.

We watch as Robert Redford meets the mysterious ‘Deep Throat’ who advises Woodward to ‘’follow the money.’’ We are with Bernstein as he breaks down a guilt-ridden bookkeeper, Jane Alexander, who starts naming important names. And we are there when Woodward risks loosing his source, Deep Throat by yelling at him. One critic who lists All The President’s Men as one of the 100 greatest films says ‘All The President’s Men’ draws viewers into the most controversial turn of events in all of American Political history — the Watergate Scandal. Eerily recreating the unmasking of a historically explosive news story, the film manages to be taut and full of suspense even though we know how it is going to end. Redford and Hoffman turn in exceptional performances as two hungry newsmen.’’ Blending the elements of journalism and Washington intrigue, ‘All The President’s Men’ remains one of the best newspaper films ever made.’’

The last word goes to an all time favourite newspaper movie called ‘Front Page’ which was first time made in 1931 and had three versions, the last one, 1974, which had Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthew, Carol Burnelt and Charles Dunning was directed by the famous Billy Wilder. Adapted from the great play by Ben Hecht, the story takes place in a noisy newsroom where an editor and his star reporter fight corruption in high places and each other. Say critics, Mick Martin and Marsha Porter, ‘’The Fast-paced, sparking dialogue and the performances have not aged after more than 30 years.’’

But then journalism that is much much older has not aged. In fact it has grown. And a new series of movies about television journalism are making the headlines today, the most talked about of which is ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ and which is to date the greatest piece of film journalism in recent times.