Film Challenge #4: Shattered Glass

The 2003 movie Shattered Glass is probably the most controversial stories we have watched in a movie so far. The film’s main character, Stephen Glass, is a young ambitious journalist at the distinguished New Republic Magazine. Glass is constantly rising above his fellow journalists, only to fall far below them at the end of the film.

As if we were not already aware of this as journalists, making up stories and publishing them as factual is not allowed whatsoever in this field. This is exactly what Stephen Glass did. He was gaining journalistic fame and popularity among his co-workers all because of hard-hitting stories he fabricated. Stories about young republicans going wild in a hotel and an eccentric young hacker’s convention are only some of the stories Glass “cooked up” while writing for the New Republic, which was known for its factual commentary on political events.

This brings up thousands of large legal and ethical issues in both the journalism world and elsewhere. Not journalist is allowed to fabricate a story of any time. The only time a fabricated, or made up, story is allowed to be published is if it is clearly stated that it is so. In addition to fabricating most of his stories, Glass also went through great lengths to hide the fact that he did so.

In the film, we see many instances of Stephen saying, “it’s in my notes at home, I’ll go get them,” and going home for some time to presumably fill his notes with more lies and fictional instances to back up his stories. He went through such great lengths that he even created fake business cards, websites, and even used his brother to create a fake voicemail from Palo Alto, California.

The film also portrayed Glass as being a stickler for fact checking at his publication. He was in the fact-checking department; therefore he could easily get by with his own fabricated “facts”. In the end it was discovered by Forbes.com that nearly everything he wrote in his time at The New Republic was fictional, or at least stretched truth.

This resulted in Glass getting fired immediately, not just suspended. In class we learned that Glass is still struggling to keep a job today. He has been denied his law license multiple times, and is only allowed working as a clerk at a law firm in California. This goes to show that in journalism, there is nothing more important than telling the truth and nothing but the truth, because journalists shape public opinion whether we are aware of this fact or not.