Chattanooga Now Mind Coffee: Films that spotlight the power of journalism

Chattanooga Now Mind Coffee: Films that spotlight the power of journalism

February 28th, 2018 by Shawn Ryan in Chattnow Movies

Shawn Ryan

Shawn Ryan

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

I saw "The Post." It made me proud to be a journalist. I even choked up a couple of times, struck by the bravery of The Washington Post standing its ground in 1971. With a cloud of legal action and financial ruin hanging over it, The Post still published the Pentagon Papers, which showed that the U.S. government had spent decades lying about what was actually going on in the Vietnam War.

While some may doubt it, the First Amendment is the reason most of us get into journalism. Believe me, the vast majority of journalists don't do it because they want to be rich or famous. Both are about as likely as finding bars of gold in a tree.

"The Post" made me think about other movies that focus on the field of journalism.

» "Ace in the Hole." In these days of so-called "fake news," Billy Wilder's 1951 biting satire about an unscrupulous newspaper reporter has a certain resonance. Kirk Douglas is a louse of a reporter who has wrecked his career and wants to get back in the game. When a man is trapped after a cave-in, Douglas manipulates everything around him so the story remains hot and he's on the front page. In the end, Douglas gets payback — maybe a bit too much, honestly.

» "All the President's Men." The touchstone for journalism films. The story of reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward uncovering the Watergate scandal shows that the grind of daily reporting — and it can be a debilitating, frustrating grind — is a compelling and exciting story. In an aside, the Nixon White House's response to the Washington Post's coverage of Watergate — It's all lies; it's politically motivated; it's yellow journalism — seems eerily familiar.

» "Network." It may have been released in 1976, but "Network" remains spot-on in its statement that behind-the-scenes in TV news, some folks are interested in ratings at all costs. Certainly that's not true for all TV news operations, and the film's storyline about a soon-to-be-laid-off news anchor who says he'll commit suicide on air is over the top, but it still has an alarming ring of truth.

» "Spotlight." Deservedly earning the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 and a Best Picture Oscar in 2016, the film follows the Boston Globe's uncovering of ongoing sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and the Boston archdiocese's coverup. This is a film that, like "All the President's Men," shows the dogged determination of a newspaper to get at the truth, despite all the roadblocks in the way. It, too, makes you proud to be a journalist.

Contact Shawn Ryan at mshawnryan@gmail.com.

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