Wag the Dog

The metaphor “wag the dog” is meant to show the power of the media. A dog is smarter than it’s tail, and the dog controls the tail. The dog is society and the media is the tail. A dog is smarter than its tail, meaning that the tail (the media) is smarter that the dog (society).

“We remember the slogans, but we don’t remember the war” is an interesting line from the movie that demonstrates what people actually remember about certain events. We never see the actual war or what is going on—we just hear the messages that come from the “war”. From the movie, the shoes were thrown on the telephone cable. This is a catchy act, clearly supported by many members of the community from the amount of shoes that were on the wire. I thought this was a catchy slogan and the public was very aware of what was going on. On the side of the producer/director, they did a good job of making it easy for the public to latch on to their lie.

I think people jumped on the “shoe” trend because the story was presented in a positive way that emphasized the “heart and soul” of what America is truly about. They deserve support, and when the public is lead to believe a “hero” is in trouble, they join the trend. For example, everyone joined the stop Joseph Kony 2012 trend. Turns out, it was a hoax. Because the use of social media, the public was lead to believe something that wasn’t true, such as the “shoe” trend. I think this shows the power of social media and the lengths people will go to in order to get their points across.

The point that jumped out to me was “The media construct reality.” Wag the Dog, plus many other media publications, challenge this statement made by Media Literary Resource Guide. Bream constructs the opposite of reality. He leads the public to believe “Shoe” is a noble, heroic man of honor because of his actions while defending out great country. However, we learn Shoe is actually a rapist with extremely psychotic and ill behaviors. This happens in real life as well. The point of “media contains ideological and value messages” also shows the power that the media has.

When the “President Bush 9/11 reading an upside down book” picture erupted, and the public made accusations such as “President Bush is the dumbest president in 50 years.” shared that Guardian journalists fell for the study and reported that Bush was the dumbest president in 50 years. This is a prime example of how the media getting away with reporting things other than “reality”.

Wag the Dog did not accurately provide context of the “Shoe” character, when in fact, he was a rapist, as the SPJ states journalists should. The SPJ also explains that journalists should do no harm. When Stanley Motss, the producer, devises the scheme of planting an Albanian bomb in Canada, he is definitely doing harm to Americans, Canadians, and Albanians. He instilled fear in all of those people involved, proving the unethical behavior of the media.


SPJ Code of Ethics

Thursday’s Lecture

Smash His Camera

“Ron Galella, King of the Paparazzi”, as TIME Magazine nicknamed him. Mr. Galella is a legend in the world of photojournalism. His famous photographs of Jackie O, Marlon Brando, and Katherine Hepburn, just to name a few, speak volumes to his dedication and commitment to photography.

Balancing the First Amendment and the right of the paparazzi is a tough task. Yes, celebrities have the right to privacy, but the paparazzi also has the right to take the pictures, especially if they’re taking it on public property. presents an interesting point concerning the First Amendment. It states, “U.S. Justice Louis Brandeis called it [the right to privacy] ‘the right to be left alone.'” But, celebrities sign up to be in the public eye once they’re movie or tv show is shown nationwide, or decide to run for public office.

The line is drawn, I believe, when children are brought into the public eye. Celebrities chose to make themselves public figures, but their children, however, do not ask for this attention. The WSJ reported under California’s new state law, “a photographer can be sent to prison for trying to take a photo of a celebrity’s son or daughter without permission.” When paparazzi bring children into the public eye, it is against their will and therefore unfair. Realistically, I don’t think there is a line that paparazzi abide by in terms of “going too far” to get a photograph. It would be nice to think that they respect others’ personal space which we are all entitled to, but this is not the case for celebrities. Being a public figure comes with the good and the bad, the privacy and the publicity.

By paparazzi standards, I think Ron’s five rules are extremely accurate. There is no doubt he knows what he is talking about. But, from an ethical viewpoint, is this OK? Is it ethical to forge credentials? To the normal bystander, no, probably not. But in the business of photojournalism, it’s what he has to do to in order to do his job well.

Katherine Hepburn planted those bushes to keep paparazzi out. For Galella to pull the bushes away and take pictures is an invasion of her privacy. She’s an actress who lives in the public eye, whether it be on stage or public appearances. When Ms. Hepburn is home, however, she has a right to be a normal person and be comfortable in a private setting such as her home. The SPJ Code of Ethics states “Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.” One could argue Galella was acting with “undue intrusiveness” while obtaining many of his pictures (like moving the plants) and “arrogance” such as dating Jackie O’s assistant.

In regards to Mr. Novak’s question about feeding an appetite that shouldn’t be fed, someone has to be the paparazzi. In some regard, the paparazzi keeps celebrities or those in the public eye on their toes. Galella seems to have an addiction to his career, so maybe he is feeding an appetite. But, celebrities need people who will keep them in line.

Ron Galella didn’t leave the most positive impact on photojournalism or the paparazzi, but there’s no denying he wasn’t committed to his job. He work extremely hard and climbed his way up the ladder to be able to photograph some of the most famous people in the world. He made a name for himself and is known by many. Though some may not respect what he did, the dedication he showed to get where he is today is respectable.

Real World Law and Ethics

Group 5 has decided to examine the ethical question concerning rape victims and releasing information about them. We found an article from which asked “Did several local New York media outlets violate journalism ethics in reports on the alleged rape victim of a New York woman?” The article explained that news outlets gave detailed information such as where the woman lived, clear pictures and videos from the victims neighbor. The New York Post reported “the alleged rape victim was left half naked in the hallway of the building while the alleged perpetrator escaped.” As a group, we want to analyze if this is ethical or was a line of privacy crossed.

Shattered Glass

Buzz Bissinger of Vanity Fair magazine wrote, “At 25, Stephen Glass was the most sought-after young reporter in the nation’s capital.” A young, eager reporter, Glass was ready to make his mark on the world; a true story-teller. However, I don’t believe the mark he made was what he was aiming for.

Glass was born into the time when the Internet was was on the rise. It was a time when information flowed more freely and information was also more accessible. He was apart of “generation Y”. I think the impact that time made on Glass was far greater than he thought. The need for immediate information and satisfaction may have driven Glass to fabricate these stories. He mentions that if he’s not a doctor or lawyer, his parent’s will be disappointed. Though he is the one responsible for fabrication and lying, I think the pressure to be the best may have added to his need to write the biggest and best (yet false) stories. It is important that the directors decided to add the mean age of reporters into the movie because it shows how young and inexperienced these journalists are. It gives the audience an idea of how vulnerable they are to the real world and the pressure they are under to climb their way out of the bottom of the food chain. This is by no means an excuse, but maybe some explanation on why they act the way they do.

Glass visits an imaginary classroom inside his head, and it correlates to how he feels about himself at the time. For example, at the beginning, Glass feels on top of the world. He speaks to all the students in a positive and upbeat way and he is writing great articles that everyone loves. As his lies begin to unravel, the class becomes less and less. I think the director incorporated a creative way to support Glass’ failing career at The New Republic. The flashes into the scenes of the fake stories, as well as the classroom, allows the audience to picture in their minds the lies building, and ultimately breaking Glass. I don’t think the scene is dishonest in itself. It is an artistic way of showing Glass as a liar and a cheat. Because the perspective is also Glass’ we see the lies play out and become too much to handle, which the audience can only get from his perspective.

Loyalty plays a big role in this movie. First, Glass’ first editor shows immense loyalty when losing his job when he stands up for his employees. Glass’ friends are also loyal to him whenever he needs something from them, though it is clear he is taking advantage of them. But most of all, I think the characters in the story (besides Glass) are loyal to the truth, and what it truly means to be a journalist.

In the end, Glass hurt more people than he could imagine. Not only did he hurt himself, but he hurt the people he worked with, the newspaper’s credibility, the people who were involved with the stories he fabricated, and journalism as a whole. Trust, when lost, is not easy to get back. Glass lost everything he had been working for, all for lying.

Like Jaysen Blair, Glass picked around what he wanted to include in his stories. He “concocted stories” about serious issues such as the War in Iraq, as the NY Times explains. This goes against everything the SPJ stands for.



Nothing But The Truth

Nothing But The Truth, based off of the true story of Judith Miller, examines the difficulties reporters must face when working with sources. Rachel Armstrong, a dedicated reporter for the Sun Capital Times, reveals the identity of a CIA operative. This, however, is a tremendous offense in the eyes of the Supreme Court because it runs the risk of a threat to national security.

I have a lot of respect for what Rachel Armstrong stood for when she wouldn’t reveal her source. She says in the film that she’s standing up for the all the reporters, especially the female reporters, by not revealing the source. I agree that this is what reporters and journalists live for; the stories that bring corruption to the forefront, and hopefully change the way the government works. A year in jail seems a bit excessive, though. She put her family through the ringer, ruined her marriage, and ruined the life of a little girl who didn’t know what she was doing. She put her career before her family, and that is something I could never do, personally.

Keeping in mind the “Do no harm” adage of SPJ, I do not believe I would have run the story. However, it is a slippery slope. If I published the article, there would be harm done to the little girl and my own family. But there also could be harm done to many people outside of my circle, such as other CIA operatives, if I didn’t publish the article. Harm will always be done, and I don’t think there is any way around that. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have run the article, but at the time, this is the kind of Pulitzer Prize news story that every journalist dreams of and could never pass up.

Being that Erica’s daughter is a minor, I would try to work something out with the court that dismisses the trial without harming the little girl. Perhaps by revealing the source to the judge privately, the public would be assured that national security is safe, and the source is identified. The whole situation, ideally, would be swept under the rug and forgotten about so the little girl doesn’t know later in life she was responsible for her mother’s death. Is this realistic, I’m not sure, but, the whole story is a little bit out there anyway.

In 1972, Branzburg v. Hayes established that “news reporters do not have a right under the First Amendment to refuse to appear or testify before a grand jury”. Shield laws do not exist at a federal level because of the Supreme Court’s ruling on this case. Shield laws are meant to protect national security, understandably. They are also supposed to protect journalists’ from being forced to reveal sources. A shield law would’ve saved Rachel from years in jail.

It is hard to say if Rachel thought about the consequences of her actions. I want to believe, as a seasoned reporter, she realized how far her story would go. I don’t believe there was actual malice behind her story, protecting her from libel, but there was definitely harm done in the process. When the lawyer says that she doesn’t need to worry about libel in her story, Rachel thinks she’s off the hook. This, to me, shows how irresponsible she is with this information. She is also irresponsible with the little girl’s information, knowing it would change her life.



Absence of Malice

Absence of Malice explores a different aspect of journalism that we didn’t see in All The President’s Men. Megan Carter does not share many similar traits with Bernstein and Woodward, nor are their reporting styles the same. This film also conveys the conflict between disclosing damaging personal information and the public’s right to know.

When Mr. Rosen leaves the Michael Gallagher file on his desk, he is basically asking for Megan to read it. It was blatantly obvious that Rosen wanted Carter to get the investigation started. There was information that Rosen knew would serve Carter’s interests. As we see later on in the movie, Carter reacts to news irresponsibly sometimes, just as she reads the file on Rosen’s desk.

“You don’t write the truth, you write what people say!” I think this is a very interesting line from the movie and resonates with Woodward’s view that we write the best obtainable version of the truth. There’s no denying it’s hard to know when people are being truthful or lying to you. We never actually know what is true unless we see it with our own eyes. As journalists, we are writing what people say and at the same time, believing it’s the truth. Sometimes the best obtainable version of the truth is the information we get from what people say. At the same time, reporters always must fact check and confirm credibility to ensure that their version of the truth is in fact truthful.

Megan was irresponsible with the information that Teresa provided her. Teresa’s abortion was deeply emotional and extremely difficult for her, and Megan immediately began to write what she was saying down. Though she may have been on the record, Teresa was simply trying help her friend, and in return, her most personal information was sent out for the world to read. It affected every aspect of her life and ultimately cost her everything. I would have found another way to prove she was in Atlanta without having to go into the abortion details. They could’ve asked the doctor to be her alibi without announcing she was getting an abortion.

Absence of Malice also deals with libel, and the line between what is right and what is wrong. According to, “Libel is published defamation of character, as opposed to spoken defamation of character, which is slander. Libel can expose a person to hatred, shame, disgrace, contempt or ridicule; injures a person’s reputation or causes the person to be shunned or avoided; injures the person in his or her occupation.” Mike Gallagher’s reputation was ruined because of the article Megan published. It was also not true. Megan was negligent in her reporting. Though she called him once, once is not enough. He had little chance to defend himself before publication of the article.

I think this movie says a lot about how media can impact normal people’s lives. Mike Gallagher’s last name brought him into this mess and his name also made him a target for Carter. People have committed suicide because of media attention, and I don’t believe that is right. There is no doubt that harm is inflicted on these people. Is that the job of the media, to report news that drives people to believe the only way out is death?



All The President’s Men Blog Post

Roger Ebert claims “All the President’s Men” is one of the best, most impactful movies showcasing journalism. The term “Watergate” now encompasses political burglary, extortion, bribery, illegal use of government agencies such as the CIA and the FBI, and obstruction of justice, just to name a few. Some believe the term “Watergate” is synonymous with “abuse of power” (

The scandal starts to unfold with the courtroom scene, as Woodward realizes this story may be more than just a burglary. He realizes these criminals’ lawyers are not your typical “granted by the state” lawyers, and something seems fishy. I don’t think Woodward oversteps any boundaries during the courtroom scene and keeps his professionalism when speaking with Mr. Martins.

Today, if an editor were to say, “You haven’t got it” and proceeded to hold a story as big as Watergate, I think they would be making a mistake. Though we must make sure the information we report on is honest and truthful, it must also be timely. News won’t be current or interesting to the reader if it’s late. Woodward and Bernstein were trustworthy reporters and it seems like they held their career in high regard and respected the truth very much.

When the issue of confidential source arises in “All The President’s Men”, I think it’s an acceptable circumstance to use a source that hasn’t been named. Deep Throat has proven to be reliable and shows Woodward and Bernstein that he knows what he’s talking about. Because of his background in government affairs, he has the education and knowledge on the subject needed to deflate Watergate. I think when Woodward and Bernstein first start using Deep Throat as a source, people and their editors are weary, however, as time passes and he proves himself trustworthy, there is no choice but to believe him. I don’t think confidential sources should always be trusted, but when they build trust with the audience and reporters (and keep it) then they deserve to be recognized as an honest source. Woodward and Bernstein kept Deep Throat hidden, just as he asked them to do, which also shows their integrity as journalists.

Woodward and Bernstein repeatedly say “it’s in my notes” when referring to a source. Though I believe them in the movie, I know not all journalists act with this kind of integrity. It could easily be swayed or perceived to mean something different even though it’s still “in his notes”. In this age, it’s very difficult to believe anyone unless it is recorded with their own voice or on camera. We cannot be positive what anyone said unless we hear it with our own ears, and not just read it with our own eyes.

I found the last scene, when Woodward is typing up his major article and Nixon is being sworn into his second term, very symbolic of the movie as a whole. This film documented the real lives of reporters and what the great lengths they must go to in order to achieve a goal. And though we know what happens after that article is released, he doesn’t, and I think it was really brave for Woodward and Bernstein to publish that piece. It redefined investigative journalism and proved the media wasn’t/isn’t completely destructive; they were simply reported on the truth…something that is many times forgotten. As the SPJ Code of Ethics states, “Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.” And that’s just what Woodward and Bernstein did.

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