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The Social Network

May 1st, 2012 · Comments Off on The Social Network

Lauren, Becca, Sam, Nick
2 May 2012
The Social Network (2010)
Director David Fincher

Behind the Beginning of Social Networking

Based loosely on the 2009 novel The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, The Social Network portrays the triumphs and tribulations of the founding of social networking website “Facebook”. The film is “intercut with scenes from depositions taken in lawsuits” (Wikipedia) against Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. One lawsuit was filed by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra, claiming the Zuckerberg stole their idea. The second lawsuit was filed by Zuckerberg’s friend Eduardo Saverin, claiming “his shares of Facebook were diluted when the company was incorporated” (Wikipedia). The film received eight Academy Award nominations, winning three, and won several Golden Globe Awards.

While there are truthful aspects of the film, it can hardly be considered a completely accurate portrayal of the events that actually took place. Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin stated that “the movie was clearly intended to be entertainment and not a fact-based documentary” (Wikipedia). First of all, the book upon which the film was based, The Accidental Billionaires, was not completely factual. Mark Zuckerberg, one of the most (if not the most) important figures in the development of the site, declined to take part in the writing of the book. Author Ben Mezrich’s main source of information was Eduardo Saverin, but once lawsuits between Saverin and Zuckerberg were settled, Saverin discontinued his involvement with the book, thus no valid conclusion could be made in the story.

David Kirkpatrick, author of the non-fiction book The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World, studied the real story of the company’s creation. Kirkpatrick “repeatedly interviewed Facebook founder Zuckerberg, his co-founders, and his friends, along with scores of Facebook executives” (Kirkpatrick) to obtain facts about Facebook. He points out inconsistencies with the film, The Social Network, and the real story. The involvement in Facebook of some of the characters in the film were misrepresented. The character of Dustin Moskovitz is “almost completely omits his critical role in building and growing [Facebook]”, which was Kirkpatrick describes as more important than Saverin’s (Kirkpatrick). However, the lawsuit made for a more dramatic film, so Saverin’s character received more attention. Despite some of its inaccuracies, Zuckerberg “got a laugh out of how accurately his wardrobe was represented” (Nemiroff). When watching a film that is based on real events, it is important to keep The Social Network writer Aaron Sorkin’s words in mind– “Art isn’t about what happened, and the properties of people and the properties of ‘characters’ are two completely different things” (Sorkin).

In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg noted that the only thing that the film got right in their portrayal of him was the clothing.  The film illustrated that Zuckerberg founded Facebook in an attempt to attract more girls and to get into an Ivy League school.  For instance, in the film, Zuckerberg dumps a girl, Erica Albright.  Erica Albright was simply a character in the movie and not based on a real person.  In reality, Zuckerberg had a girlfriend before he launched Facebook.  Zukerberg noted in an article by The Guardian,

“The whole framing of the movie is I’m with this girl (who doesn’t exist in real life) … who dumps me … which has happened in real life, a lot,” he said to laughter from the audience. “And basically the framing is that the whole reason for making Facebook is because I wanted to get girls, or wanted to get into clubs. They [the film’s creators] just can’t wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things”(Child 20 October 2010).

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss filed a lawsuit against Facebook and Zuckerberg in 2004.  They established a site called Connect U and claimed that Zuckerberg stole their ideas.  Eventually, the Winklevoss brothers dropped the suit and were satisfied, for a short time, with a $65 million settlement.   However, they decided to appeal the ruling because they claimed that the settlement was based on an inaccurate valuation of the company.  At the time, Facebook was valued at $100 billion.  An appeals court sided with Facebook and struck down the Winklevoss’ appeal.  In 2010, they noted that they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court (Musil 2011).

Although this movie was not based entirely on the book or the creation of Facebook, it gives the audience insight into the workings of Facebook and how it (loosely) came into existence.  Media companies like these somehow persuade the majority of people to join these networks, including people in developing countries.  Watching something like this makes you realize what your participation and engagement in social networking does for advertising companies; we are simply fueling the fire for these big corporations to keep growing and to keep making billions of dollars.  It is important to keep this in mind when we register and become members of these sites.



Important Quotes

  1. Sean Parker: “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!” — This is a very important quote, because we have entered this world.  This generation and ones to come are and will be dependent on the internet.
  2. Sean Parker: He’s wired in. Eduardo Saverin: [picks up marks computer and smashes it on the ground] What about now? Are you wired in now?” — this quote is essential to understanding our society, because once and awhile, everyone should disconnect from their technologies and participate in real, face-to-face communication so they may understand the world around them.
  3. Mark-  People want to go online and check out their friends, so why not build a website that offers that? Friends, pictures, profiles, whatever you can visit, browse around, maybe it’s someone you just met at a party. Eduardo, I’m not talking about a dating site, I’m talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.
  4. Marylin Delpy: What are you doing? Mark Zuckerberg: Checking in to see how it’s going in Bosnia. Marylin Delpy: Bosnia. They don’t have roads, but they have Facebook.” — again, this is an incredibly vital quote in the film, because it tells the audience how vast and globalized Facebook has become.  Even people who live in places that are still developing know of, and maybe even use, this social network.
  5. Marylin Delpy: The site got twenty-two hundred hits within two hours? Mark Zuckerberg: Thousand. Marylin Delpy: I’m sorry? Mark Zuckerberg: Twenty-two *thousand*. Marylin Delpy: [to herself] Wow. — Sites like these go viral so quickly.  In the film, it was said that this would have been more hits to a network than the Super Bowl would get during the halftime show.

Discussion Questions

  1. After seeing this film, do you think people’s opinions about Facebook and other social networking sites changed? Why is it that people Facebook?
  2. Is it possible that this movie reflects all of us?  We are constantly tapped into some sort of gadget feeding us information and framing our way of thinking.  Is it possible that this will change? Or do you think our generations will only become more dependent on the internet and “wiring in?”
  3. What does this movie say about the advancement of technology in our day-in-age?  Do you think we’re using the internet and these social networks for good? Do you think the falling out between friends and the sacrifices Mark, Eduardo and others made (of course loosely based on real events)  were, in the end, beneficial to society?


“The Accidental Billionaires.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Apr. 2012. Web. 30 Apr.

2012. <>.

Child, Ben. “Mark Zuckerberg Rejects His Portrayal in the Social Network.” The Guardian. 20             October 2010. network.

Kirkpatrick, David. “What’s True in the Facebook Movie.” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily

Beast, 30 Sept. 2010. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.


“Mark Zuckerberg.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Apr. 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.


Miller, Jenni. “Aaron Sorkin Defends ‘Social Network’ Misogyny: “I Didn’t Invent the “F–k Truck”””

The Moviefone Blog. 12 Oct. 2010. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. <>.

Musil, Steven. “Winklevoss Twins Drop Facebook Lawsuit.”  CNET News.  22 June, 2011.       lawsuit/

Nemiroff, Perri. “Mark Zuckerberg on What ‘The Social Network’ Got Right and Wrong (VIDEO).”

The Moviefone Blog. 13 Oct. 2010. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.


“The Social Network.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Apr. 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.



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Ghana: Digital Dumping Grounds

April 24th, 2012 · Comments Off on Ghana: Digital Dumping Grounds

Lauren, Becca, Sam, Nick
Ghana Digital Dumping Ground
Producer Peter Klein
April 25, 2012

Convergence of Journalism and Film

Demonstrated through an investigative documentary

Peter W. Klein is a journalist and filmmaker, and is currently a director of the journalism program at the University of British Columbia. He has won Emmy awards for his work on CBS’s show 60 Minutes and, along with some of his students, for their documentary “Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground”. This documentary promotes awareness of the growing issue of e-waste dumping in developing countries. Klein and his students traveled to several different areas of the world to accumulate evidence of their extensive research. This documentary exemplifies some of the issues that journalists often go through during filming and production, such as content censoring by television networks, and some safety issues during the filming process.

Klein teaches a course called “International Reporting” in which he and his graduate students cover very high profile stories.  During his lecture, Klein noted that it was tough to convince major networks to air his documentary.  Unlike some of the commercial networks, PBS is a not for profit.  Klein’s example illustrates the tension between corporate and public interest.  There are some parallels between Klein’s attempts to get networks to air his “under covered” stories:  the concept of spectrum scarcity and Newton Minow’s philosophy that television is a teaching tool (Class Notes).

It was very expensive for Klein and his students to travel to Ghana, India, and China.  According to Reed E. Hundt, the 1934 Communications Act requires the FCC to “grant and renew licenses to use the electromagnetic spectrum only after determining whether the public interest, convenience, and necessity will be served” (1089).  This highlights the notion of spectrum scarcity.  Unlike newspapers and magazines, the airwaves are limited.  Klein mentioned that one of his students pitched a story and it was rejected by the networks because it had been covered by another journalist a few years earlier. They didn’t want to produce and air repetitive content.  But Klein noted that a lot had changed in the story since it was first covered (Klein).  Minow indicated that television is meant to serve as a teaching tool.  But, the difficulties that Klein faced pitching his documentary to networks shows their tendency to filter or cut out content that they don’t think will get high ratings.  Klein also produced segments on 60 Minutes.  Originally a journalist from newspaper and radio, he wasn’t used to this type of reporting. During our class discussion, he talked about how the news had become a show about journalist doing journalism.  It was a new kind of reality TV (Klein). He noted in his lecture that terms such as “casting” were used and the reporters were in a sense “brands” for the network.  Programs such as “Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground” may bring in fewer viewers than stories about hot button issues like the Iraq War.  This clearly demonstrates how commercial interests and ratings rule television.

During his presentation, Klein discussed some of the safety issues surrounding the filming of “Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground.”  He mentioned several other news networks that had attempted filming similar content, but were unable to complete their projects due to sometimes violent run-ins with local authorities and citizens trying to protect this “industry.” During filming in China, Klein opted to leave his students behind on some of the excursions to avoid exposing them to potential mishaps (Klein). This more dangerous side of investigative journalism can be compared to “Live From Baghdad.” In this film, Robert Wiener, a CNN producer, along with his team, film front-row footage in the midst of violence in Iraq. The journalists put themselves at direct risk of injury, but do so to get the powerful footage to support their story. In both circumstances, the filmers put their safety as a second priority to obtaining strong footage. This demonstrates the dedication of some journalists to provide their viewers with images that prove the legitimacy of their stories.

After listening to Peter Klein speak both in our class and at the lecture, it is clear how much influence media has on our lives with respect to what we see and what we don’t see.  The stories that are pitched to the executive producers are often turned down, which makes the people in these positions incredibly powerful in determining what an audience is provided.  It was interesting to hear him speak of the differences a show has when being aired on different stations and networks around the world, and how typically the United States sees less of the story in a visual and graphical sense.  This is where we can draw in the importance of media literacy and being able to understand that what see is not always the entire truth, or maybe not the truth at all, as we saw in the movie Shattered Glass.  We have to be able to recognize that some of the stories may be fabricated in one way or another, and that even if the story is true, it might not be the full story.  As Peter demonstrated, media literacy is incredibly important even when watching documentaries, because often information is cut out and shaped to fit a particular demographic.  To recognize this is to be media literate, which is becoming increasingly important in our society.

Important Quotes/General Statements

  1. “People in Ghana thought they were welcoming donations that would help bridge the technological and electronic divide.  When the shipments arrive, the majority of the products don’t work”
  2. Ghana is now listed on the top ten sources of cyber crime due to the hacking of personal information that is left on hard-drives of recycled electronics.
  3. “It’s a myth to think you can solve the problem solely with technology” – on the attempt to fix e-waste in India.
  4. “In a small town in China, miles and miles of electronic waste builds up.  Everyone is doing something to sort through and distribute recycled electronics.  Many women literally cook electronic data boards in order to find traces of gold, all the while poisoning themselves with lead fumes.”
  5. “I try and sift through all of these electronics for evidence.  I believe in finding evidence and documentation of these problems” – Environmental journalist from Ghana

Discussion Questions

  1. Both in class and during his lecture, Peter Klein talked about how stories are constructed in order to fit the target audience.  Different stations or networks around the world may show different versions of the same program.  Do you think our society is partially at fault for this self-censorship?  Is there a way to change our world view in a way that would allow us the ability to sit through more graphic and disturbing programs that would communicate the entire truth of a particular story?
  2. Do you believe it is ethically moral to film segments of a documentary secretly, or without the people you’re interviewing knowing?  This was seen in Peter Klein’s documentary when the group of grad students purchased a few hard drives so they could look into the material themselves.  Is this good, ethical journalism?
  3. Does this documentary cause awareness within the western world?  Do you think people are realizing that although they feel as they are doing good to the world by recycling their electronics, third world and developing countries are put in danger? Some major electronic companies, including Best Buy, Apple, HP and Dell are trying to help with this issue. What do you think the rest of society can do to help prevent making these problems abroad worse?

Works Cited

Hundt, Reed E. “The Public’s Airwaves: What Does the Public Interest Require of Television

Broadcasters?” Duke Law Journal 45.6 (1996): 1089-1129.


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Shattered Glass

April 16th, 2012 · Comments Off on Shattered Glass

Lauren, Sam, Becca, Nick
18 April 2012
Shattered Glass (2003)
Director Billy Ray


Reading Between the Li(n)es

Finding the truth in journalism

Shattered Glass is based on the true story of a young journalist, Stephen Glass, accused and convicted of making up stories for the magazine, The New Republic.   During his years at the New Republic, Glass concocted news stories claiming that they actually took place.  Glass passed off his fiction as true journalism by constructing deep webs of lies, even to the extent of creating false organizations, websites, and newsletters. At one point, Glass’s agent was in the process of helping him sign a book deal with Random House attracting the attention of some screenwriters (Bissinger 1).   Chuck Lane, the New Republic editor, began to become suspicious of Glass.  Glass’ story about a hacking convention, “Hacker’s Heaven”, was completely made up.  The real Glass sounded very convincing until Lane asked a security guard whether or not the hotel was open on the day the supposed Hacker’s Conference took place.  Despite the fact that the security guard and building engineer confirmed that the building was closed on the day of Glass’ supposed Hacker’s Conference, Glass continued his attempts to keep his lie alive (Bissinger 3).

In reality, Stephen Glass joined the New Republic as an editorial assistant in 1995. Glass started to fabricate stories at the beginning of 1998 when he was assigned to do a piece of writing on “an arcane piece of Washington legislation” and felt that the story needed “sprucing up” (CBSNews).  His news stories were pure creative writing. For instance, in January 1998, Glass wrote a story in which he made up a fake company, HDT, which he claimed would drop off people in the woods for $25,000.  Ed Brown, a writer for Fortune Magazine picked up on Glass’s lie and thought that maybe Glass wrote the piece as simply a joke.

One possible explanation of Glass’s fabrications was the fact that he was attending law school while he wrote for The New Republic and free lanced at the other magazine companies (Bissinger 5).  

Furthermore, in real life not only was Glass writing for The New Republic, according to Vanity Fair’s Buzz Bissinger, he was also a freelance writer for other magazines such as Rolling Stone and George.

Glass was addicted to fabricating stories because it gave him an adrenaline rush.  In a 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft, Glass explained his motivations behind lying.  Glass noted, “I loved the electricity of people liking my stories. I loved going to story conference meetings and telling people what my story was going to be, and seeing the room excited. I wanted every story to be a home run” (Leung).  Glass was good at getting past the fact checkers because he used to be one.  Glass noted in detail how he got past the fact checkers,

“I would tell a story, and there would be fact A, which maybe was true. And then there would be fact B, which was sort of partially true and partially fabricated. And there would be fact C which was more fabricated and almost not true. And there would be fact D, which was a complete whopper. And totally not true. And so people would be with me on these stories through fact A and through fact B. And so they would believe me to C. And then at D they were still believing me through the story”(Leung).

For a while, Glass managed to get the fact checkers to see logic within his lies.  For instance, Glass attempted to cover his tracks in his “Hacker’s Heaven” article by creating a website for the fake company “Jukt Micronics”, sent a fictitious “National Assembly of Hackers” newsletter to Chuck, fabricated a law – “the Uniform Computer Security Act”, and an array of other schemes in an attempt to convince Chuck and staff at The New Republic that his hacker story was real (Leung). But, there were some holes in his story.  For instance, in the film, Glass’s “Jukt Micronics” site didn’t look like a professional website at all.  He created the website instantly using AOL Hometown, a part of AOL that allows any user to put together a website fast (Shattered Glass).

Shattered Glass is a great way to understand and show the importance of self-regulation in print media. If there is no regulation by the company itself, they may be more susceptible to loss of credibility due to information they distribute. In addition to codes of ethics that are typically put in place by journalists, many news organizations have an Ombudsman who keep organizations honest and accountable.  They mediate conflicts of both internal and external pressures and foster self criticism and to encourage the adherence of codified and uncodified ethics and standards.  Besides the Ombudsman, some newsgroups have a news council.  An example of this is the Press Complaints Commission, set up by UK newspapers and magazines, that self regulate (Wikipedia 2012).

The fabrications published by Stephen and the lack of regulation of this particular newspaper show us the importance of taking classes such as Media, Communication and Society.  If we have a better understanding of media literacy and are able to read between the lies and lines of articles published by different agencies, we will be able to create our own understanding of the news.  Although agenda setting of different media types is incredibly difficult to bypass and the first amendment prevents regulation of content in the print media, being able to identify these different forms of corruption will allow the audience to have agency and the ability to create their own agenda.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think it’s possible for a news network or newspaper to regain credibility after ruining their reputation with fake stories and plagiarized information?
  2. How can we relate the stories of Stephen Glass to the yellow journalism of William Hearst?  In today’s day in age, is it possible for people to get away with fabrication in print media? Do you think regulation by the government is needed in print media?
  3. What motivated Stephen Glass to lie and fabricate stories? What kinds of formal and informal codes of ethics are journalists expected to follow?

Important Quotes

  1. “He handed us fiction after fiction, and we printed them all as fact. Just because we found him entertaining.” Chuck Lane
  2. “What are you going to do, Chuck, pick us off, one by one? Everybody that was loyal to Mike, so you have a staff that belongs to you? Is that the kind of magazine you want to run? “(Caitlin Avey) “Caitlin, When this thing blows, there isn’t going to be a magazine anymore. If you want to make this about Mike, make it about Mike. I don’t give a shit. You can resent me, you can hate me, but come Monday morning, we’re all going to have to answer for what we let happen here. We’re all going to have an apology to make! Jesus Christ! Don’t you have any idea how much shit we’re about to eat? Every competitor we ever took a shot at, they’re going to pounce. And they should. Because we blew it, Caitlin. He handed us fiction after fiction and we printed them all as fact. Just because… we found him “entertaining.” It’s indefensible. Don’t you know that? “(Chuck Lane)
  3. “But there is one thing in this story that checks out” (Adam). “What’s that?” (Kambiz) “There does appear to be a state in the union named Nevada” (Adam).
  4. “Chuck, will you come with me because I’m afraid I might do something. Did you hear what I said?” (Stephen). “Yah I did… Hell of a story” (Chuck).
  5. “It’s in my notes.” Stephen Glass

Works Cited

Bissinger, Buzz. “Shattered Glass.” Vanity Fair. September 1998: 1-6. 16

April,  2012.Web.


“Journalism Ethics and Standards.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Apr. 2012. Web. 16

Apr. 2012. <>.

“Stephen Glass: I Lied For Esteem.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 11 Feb. 2009. Web. 16 Apr.

2012. <>.


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The Insider

April 10th, 2012 · Comments Off on The Insider

Lauren, Becca, Sam and Nick
April 11, 2012
The Insider (1999)
Director Michael Mann

Corporate Interest and Media Expectations

The Insider is based on the true story of tobacco expert Jeffrey Wigand, a former lead scientist at Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation in Louisville, Kentucky.  He joined the company because he wanted to create a less addictive cigarette.   Wigand learned, however, that the company wanted people to become addicted to the cigarettes because that would lead to increased profit.  As the majority of media and products go, they are not interested in personal health of the people they are targeting, rather they are interested in capital.  Eventually, Wigand decided to disclose information to prosecutors, journalists, and investigators about what he witnessed at the tobacco company because of his increased guilt that he was not releasing vital information that should be known by the American people. As a result, Brown & Williamson sued him for violating the confidentiality agreement that he signed.  He also received numerous death threats.  In August, 1995, Wigand was interviewed for 60 Minutes by Mike Wallace.  But, the interview did not air until February of 1996 because CBS executives were afraid of lawsuits (Enrich 70).

The interview conducted between Wigand and CBS was cut because of corporate conflicts and self-censorship.  CBS was in the process of making a deal with Westinghouse Electric and top CBS executives were afraid that if the interview aired, the price of their shares would decrease (Es 90). As consumers of these media, we expect true and relative information to be distributed to us by both the reporter and the source.  However, it is compelling to analyze the difference between corporate interest and media expectations. During a meeting between Wigand and CBS, one of the lawyers unveils that due to the confidentiality agreement between Wigand and Brown and Williamson and Big Tobacco’s financial riches, Wigand would be silenced because of legal fees and litigation.  Later, we hear that “the greater the truth Wigand tells, the greater the damage to CBS.” The edited version of the interview that was aired was done so in order to save CBS from a potential multi-billion dollar lawsuit.  This clearly demonstrates how companies are often more concerned with their own well-being, success and profit than they are for the safety and intelligence of the American people.

Wigand is thus known as a whistleblower because he revealed the surreptitious motives of Brown & Williamson.  Myron Glazer identifies three types of whistleblowers: “unbending resisters”, “reluctant collaborators”, and “implicated protesters.”  Individuals who protest from the inside of an organization are classified as “unbending resisters.”  “Implicated protesters” speak out within an organization, but quickly conform and follow the organization’s rules when chastised.  Reluctant collaborators are “deeply involved in acts they privately condemn.  They seek public remedy and personal expiration only when they leave the organization” (Glayzer 33).  Wigand, at least at the beginning, could have been considered a “reluctant collaborator” because he worked for the company and was hesitant to release information.   But, Wigand sacrificed a high salary and a life of luxury when he went public about the matter.  During the film, The Insider, we see how his decision to release secret information about Brown and Williamson lead to the loss of his home and sense of security with respect to both his family’s safety and finances, his relocation to a different neighborhood,  and finally the disconnect from his family and from himself .

It is interesting to see, both in the film and in real life scenarios, how the correspondent interacts with the source of their information.  The Insider demonstrates how the correspondent intends to keep tabs on his source to make sure he remains truthful to his testaments. Bergman continuously calls Wigand to check up on him and make sure that he remains stable in a time of extreme stress.  Bergman also tries to keep Wigand as safe as possible before unveiling truths about Brown and Williamson, which is seen when Bergman becomes angry that Wigand has not been entirely truthful about his past marriage and child. This information could be used easily against him in a suit of law, making it impossible to take down such a huge and powerful corporation. According to Robert Niles, the reporter and the source have a symbiotic relationship. He states, “We need a story, and sources need their side heard. We work with, and for, each other” (Niles 2011).  This is clearly demonstrated between Wigand and CBS, as Wigand believes it is important for the American people to know the truth behind Brown and Williamson, and Bergman wants the story.  Although there are ways to post information to the internet, the majority of stories published online are not considered credible sources. So, if one wants their information and news to be taken seriously, it is incredibly important to have a company such as CBS distribute two go hand in hand- one cannot exist without the other.
Watching this movie allows us to see the influence money has on information distributed and how it often overrides fairness and integrity of the media.  As we have discussed throughout class and within our past blog entries, it is incredibly important for the consumers of the media to keep in mind what is going on behind the scenes and remain aware of the power media corporations have in distributing and manipulating news.  Being media literate is becoming increasingly important.  We have to think beyond the fact that media is just entertainment, and for our own gratification, because it is constantly shaping our views, especially now that the boundaries between the public and the private are becoming increasingly blurred.  The agenda produced by the media becomes our own agenda.  We believe we have the freedom to think about what we want, but the media is constantly framing us and manufacturing messages that are mass communicated. The Insider gives the audience an example of how the corporate world influences these ideologies, and we should always consider these powers when consuming media.

Important Quotes

  1. Lowell Bergman: In all that time, Mike, did you ever get out a plane, walk into a room and find that a source for a story changed his mind? Lost his heart? Walked out on us? Not one fucking time. You want to know why? Mike Wallace: I see a rhetorical question on the horizon. Lowell Bergman: I’m gonna tell you why: because when I tell someone I’m gonna do something, I deliver.
  2. Mike Wallace: And do you wish you hadn’t come forward? Do you wish you hadn’t blown the whistle? Jeffrey Wigand: There are times when I wish I hadn’t done it. There are times when I feel com… compelled to do it. If you asked me, would I do it again, do I think it’s worth it? Yeah I think its worth it.
  3. Lowell Bergman: You pay me to go get guys like Wigand, to draw him out. To get him to trust us, to get him to go on television. I do. I deliver him. He sits. He talks. He violates his own fucking confidentiality agreement. And he’s only the key witness in the biggest public health reform issue, maybe the biggest, most-expensive corporate-malfeasance case in U.S. history. And Jeffrey Wigand, who’s out on a limb, does he go on television and tell the truth? Yes. Is it newsworthy? Yes. Are we gonna air it? Of course not. Why? Because he’s not telling the truth? No. Because he is telling the truth. That’s why we’re not going to air it. And the more truth he tells, the worse it gets!
  4. Helen Caperelli: Our standards have to be higher than anyone else because we are the standard of everyone else.
  5. Jeffrey Wigand: I’m just a commodity to you, aren’t I? I could be anything. Right? Anything worth putting on between commercials. Lowell Bergman: To a network, probably, we’re all commodities. To me? You are not a commodity. What you are is important.

Discussion Questions

  1. Journalistic integrity is a major concept of the movie, The Insider. Lowell Bergman is concerned throughout the movie about the art of journalism and the integrity that comes with the position, but he is faced with great opposition from the corporate heads of CBS. How can we be sure that there is truly any journalistic integrity left within reporting and how can we be sure we are getting the whole story?
  2. The corporations that convey the news to the general public are in fact no different than any other corporation. Their primary focus is to turn a profit by giving the public a service or good.  In the case of 60 minutes, the service is information. If the primary focus of  the corporation is to turn a profit, is it wrong to treat Wigand or any other source as a commodity, or a form of capital within the company?
  3. Is it up to the news organizations to give us the whole story?  Journalists and the public would love it if the world were perfect and we were given the true story every time, but isn’t it up to the people to have the agency to find out the truth for themselves and not to blindly believe any information that is thrown at them?

Works Cited

Glayzer, Myron. “Ten Whistleblowers and How They Fared.” The Hastings Center Report 13.6 (1988): pp. 33-41. Web. 9 Apr. 2012.

Enrich, David. “The Insider Who Blew Smoke at Big Tobacco.” US News & World Report 12
August 2001: Web.  9 Apr. 2012.

Es, Robert Van. “Inside and Outside “The Insider”: A Film Workshop in Practical Ethics.”

Journal of Business Ethics 48.1 (2003): 89-97.

Niles, Robert. “The Changing Relationship Between Reporters and Sources.” OJR: The Online

Journalism Review. 29 Apr. 2011. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.



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Live from Baghdad

April 3rd, 2012 · Comments Off on Live from Baghdad

Lauren Bowie, Sam Foster, Becca Sears, Nick Farr
Live From Baghdad (2002)
Dir. Mick Jackson
3 April, 2012

Live from Baghdad

Wartime News Impact on Society

The film “Live From Baghdad” was produced in 2002 by HBO. Directed by Mick Jackson and written by Robert Wiener, the film was based on the book written by Wiener in the same year. On August 23, 1990, Wiener, the executive producer for news network CNN, and his crew landed in Baghdad “during the period of tense international maneuvering that would culminate in open war” (Macmillan). At the time, CNN was considered “the little network that could”. Wiener and his crew were competing with more established television news networks such as NBC, CBS, and ABC  to “fill television screens with news from Baghdad throughout the day” (Political Film Society). In order to establish himself, and his network, as superior Wiener pursues to acquire footage and interviews with more diligence and courage than the others. For example, Wiener waits patiently from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm to meet with Iraqi minister Naji Al-Nadithi, while representatives from other networks stormed off in frustration. Through Wiener’s friendship with Al-Nadithi, CNN becomes the only news agency allowed to enter Kuwait at the time. At the end of the film, CNN proves themselves as a big network when their news correspondents provide live commentary of the attack of Baghdad with a front-row view of the destruction from their hotel suite. A montage of praise by various other news anchors is the culmination of their five months of coverage in Iraq.

The 24-hour news coverage of the prelude stages of the Iraq War is an example of the CNN effect, which is a theory that “seeks to explain the effect that 24-hour news networks, such as CNN, have on the general political and economic climate” (Investopedia). Because of constant coverage, audiences are narrowly focused on one news event for a prolonged period of time, which can in turn cause “individuals and organizations to react more aggressively towards the subject matter being examined” (Investopedia). Piers Robinson explores the concept of the CNN Effect in a book published in 2002. Robinson notes, “The phrase ‘CNN Effect’ encapsulated the idea that real-time communications technology could provoke major responses from domestic audiences and political elites to global events” (1999, 301).

The CNN Effect can also explain  pressure felt by politicians by the media.  Robinson states, in support of this argument, “James Hope, for example, observed that ‘today’s pervasive media increases the pressures on politicians to respond promptly to news accounts that by their very immediacy are incomplete, without context and sometimes wrong” (1999, 302). Many individuals believed that “policy uncertainty” caused the CNN Effect.  Robinson observes, “Many scholars agree that as policy certainty decreases, news media influence increases and that, conversely, as policy becomes more certain, the influence of news media coverage is reduced” (2005, 345).  For instance, during the 1990s, “shocking images” from conflicts caused policy makers to panic (2005, 345).

CNN is significant because it was the first network to have twenty-four hour news coverage.  During the 1990s, there were no other 24 hour news networks.  Philip Seib notes that the 1991 Gulf War “illustrated, live coverage has complex ramifications for policy makers and journalists. It removes the cushion of time and with it considerable flexibility” (Seib). CNN wanted to be taken seriously as a network. Seib further notes, “Even when direct communication between Iraqi and American officials broke down, CNN was available as a de facto diplomatic channel” (Seib).  Before the air bombings started in 1991 CNN reporter Bernard Shaw stated in a broadcast that an Iraqi official would be “willing to discuss all issues.”  This report caused the stock market to go up.  It illustrated the “ripple effect” that one story could have (Seib).

And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself and Live from Baghdad illustrate the high newsworthiness of war.  In Live from Pancho Villa, Villa signs a contract with the movie studio agreeing to perform battle scenes well for the camera.   In actuality, the real Pancho Villa didn’t sign a contract to perform in the best lighting (Bruce-Nouva). Audiences were excited by the stimulating and action-packed war scenes from The Life of General Villa.  Similarly in Live from Baghdad, when the rockets are pouring into Baghdad, the CNN producers insist that they keep filming the reporter, despite putting their lives at risk to encourage viewers to watch their struggling news network.

Media literacy is important when watching the news. Keeping the CNN Effect in mind can help deter overreactions to news events that are excessively represented on television. We also need to keep in mind the influence that the media can have on politicians and policy making, an idea that is also acknowledged by the CNN Effect. Live From Baghdad and And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself both portray the newsworthiness of wars. Because of their popularity, news networks may show coverage of wars in order to attract more viewers, which is yet another argument in favor of becoming more media literate.

Discussion Questions

  1. In the movie we see many attempts by the Iraqi government to try and filter what information the CNN crew could release to the world. In one instance Robert Weiner feared that an American who was interviewed has gone missing because of information he gave to CNN. Do you think these attempts to silence the reporters and the new ability for American people to see the reality of the situation strengthened American support for the war? If so, how?
  2. Did the pressure the direct CNN reporting to the American public scare Saddam into giving CNN an interview? If so, do you think the reporting of CNN pressured him in a similar way that Edward Murrow was able to pressure McCarthy into giving a public response due to his reporting?
  3. CNN’s coverage of the initial bombs was obviously groundbreaking in the news industry giving people a first hand experience of the war. in the years since we have seen even more advances in wartime media coverage going as far as documentaries like “restrepo” that show soldiers in some of the most intense combat situations actually caught on film, But, how much farther can we go? Do you feel we can take it any farther then filming the actual war itself?

Important Quotes:

  1. Ingrid Formanek- “Come on, Wienerish, we’re just the eyes. You put this shit up there, and people pull it down on their sonys. I think i’m quoting you”
  2. Stu- “You’re nothing but a bunch of overpaid, bone-picking vultures” Robert Wiener “You’re confusing us with CBS, pal, We’re the underpaid vultures”
  3. Ed Turner “No story is worth your life…But, this is the story of a lifetime”
  4. Richard Roth “ This was the biggest forest in the history of the world. . . dinosaurs. Then it all died, rotted, turned into oil, and now… we’re here. its basically fighting to see who gets to desecrate the cemetery. who gets the oil. no wonder there always has been so much bad blood, it’s always been lousy karma to be a grave robber”

Works Cited

Bruce-Novoa, Juan. “Pancho Villa: Post-Colonial Colonialism, or the Return of the Americano.”

Kritikos: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal of Postmodern Cultural Sound, 2 2005):

“CNN Effect.” Investopedia. Web. 03 Apr. 2012.


“Live From Baghdad.” Macmillan. Web. 03 Apr. 2012.


“Political Film Society – Live from Baghdad.” Political Film Society. Web. 03 Apr. 2012.


Robinson, Piers. “The CNN Effect: Can the News Media Drive Foreign Policy?” Review of      International Studies, 25.2 (1999): pp. 301-309.

Robinson, Piers. “The CNN Effect Revisited.” Critical Studies in Media Communication, 22.4 (2005): pp. 344-349.

Seib, Philip. “Effects of Real Time News Coverage on Foreign Policy.” Journal of Conflict        Studies, 20.2 (2000): n.pag. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.

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Talk Radio

March 27th, 2012 · Comments Off on Talk Radio

Lauren Bowie, Becca Sears, Sam Foster, Nick Farr
Talk Radio (1988)
Director Oliver Stone
28 March 2012

Controversy on the Radio

In 1988, Oliver Stone and and Eric Bogosian came together to write a storyline about a Jewish man named Barry Champlain.  Based in Dallas, Texas, the radio host has a knack for cutting people down with his controversial political arguments.  Throughout the show, Champlain receives hate-mail and angry callers, one even making a bomb threat and threatening phone calls.  His show was supposed to go national, but he was murdered the night he was given approval.  The movie was based off of the real life character of Alan Berg, a radio talk show host who was known for his largely liberal and outspoken viewpoints, along with his confrontational interview style. Alan Berg, too, was shot and killed in his driveway by a group of white nationalists, called The Order. Through the story of Barry Champlain, we can see how effective the radio is, reinforcing the necessity for our society to become media literate.

The FCC began enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine in 1949.  The Fairness Doctrine consisted of two criteria that radio and television stations had to meet in order to get their license renewed.  The first criteria was that license holders had an “affirmative obligation to provide coverage of vitally important controversial issues of interest in the community served by the broadcaster” (Hazlett and Sosa, 280).  If broadcasters didn’t cover issues in the community’s interest, the FCC could revoke their license (Hazlett and Sosa, 286).  The second part of the criteria formed around the idea of equal access.  This meant that license holders had to “provide a reasonable opportunity for the presentation of contrasting viewpoints on such issues” (Hazlett and Sosa, 280).  The foundation of the fairness doctrine was based on the belief that broadcasters would “tend to underprovide a public good – news about important social issues” (Hazlett and Sosa, 279).  In other words, the government had a lack of confidence in the ability of broadcasters to provide meaningful, educational content to the public.

The Fairness Doctrine was struck down in 1987 because the Supreme Court ruled that it violated the First Amendment.  When the FCC makes decisions determining which programming is “fair and balanced for the public”, this represents a tremendous amount of power.  Hazlett and Sosa note that opponents of the fairness doctrine believed that this power would be abused by regulators under the influence of “political factions.”  They further note, “Self-censorship would result in a ‘chilling effect’ on the flow of controversial speech” (280).  The Supreme Court concluded that this “chilling effect could trigger a successful First Amendment challenge to the FCC’s regulatory regime” (Hazlett and Sosa, 299).  In 1985, Congress admonished the FCC claiming that the fairness doctrine “chilled free speech, precisely on the grounds that it reached a conclusion lacking any factual or statistical basis” (Hazlett and Sosa, 299).   As a result, broadcasters were essentially given carte blanche under the guise of free speech.

There are many radio talk shows that have been cut off due to inappropriate comments.  The most recent, of course, is that of Rush Limbaugh.  Late in February, he called a female Georgetown University student a “slut” and a “prostitute” based on her testimony before a committee of the House of Democrats.  She did not accept his apology, as he was only doing so due to pressure from sponsors who would pull advertising if he did not do so (Rush Limbaugh).  Others include Don Imus, from his morning Talk Show, Imus in the Morning. After he made a comment about the NCAA Women’s Basketball team, seven sponsors had either pulled their ads outright or suspended advertising on the show to protest his remarks.  These included General Motors (Imus’s biggest advertiser), Staples Inc. ClaxoSmithKline, Sprint Nexel, PetMeds, American Express and Procter & Gable (Don Imus).  Howard Stern, another radio host, actually moved his show to Satellite Radio where FCC regulations do not exist.  From 1990 to 2004, the FCC has fined owners of radio stations that carried The Howard Stern Show a total of $2.5 million for indecent programming (Howard Stern).

Talk Radio, coupled with the study of other talk show hosts and an understanding of the FCC, provides an extreme insight to the effects of radio and the power a voice can have over a group of people.  Instead of refraining from turning on his station, Barry Champlain receives phone calls from people complaining about the terrible acts he’s committing.  Just like television and newspapers, radio is another form of mass media we must come to understand and realize it has an effect on our culture and on our society.  Being media literate in terms of radio is just as important as the other forms we have studied, which is easily seen in the movie Talk Radio and the real-life controversies that continue to happen.

Important Quotes

  1. “Sticks and stones can break your bones but words cause permanent damage!” – Barry
  2. “We’ll be right back after a word from our sponsor. HOOOO-WEEE! Jericho’s Pizza, off Route 1-11 at the Jericho Turnpike, they got that pizza you’ll never forget, one bite and you don’t have to eat for a week. I saw a guy in there the other day combing his hair with the stuff off the plate. Jericho’s Pizza.” Barry Champlain
  3. “You’re not going to make me apologize for getting you a slot on national radio.” – Dan
  4. “I should hang; I’m a hypocrite. I ask for sincerity and I lie. I denounce the system as I embrace it. I want money and power and prestige: I want ratings and success. And I don’t give a damn about you, or the world. That’s the truth: for that I could say I’m sorry, but I won’t. Why should I? I mean who the hell are you anyways you… audience! You’re on me every night like a pack of wolves because you can’t stand facing what you are and what you’ve made! Yes the world is a terrible place, yes cancer and garbage disposals will get you. Yes the war is coming, yes the world is shot to hell and you’re all goners! Everything is screwed up and you like it that way don’t you!” – Barry Champlain
  5. “Talk Radio. Free speech isn’t really free at all.” – Barry Champlain
  6. “What do you think you’re doing in here, Barry? This is a talk show. You are a talk show host.” – Dan
  7. “The worst news of the night is that three out of four people in this country say they rather watch TV than have sex with their spouse. The second worst news is that some kids needed money for crack last night so you know what they did? They stuck a knife in the throat of an eighty year old grandmother down on Eulid Avenue. Right here in Dallas. One night, in one American city. Multiply that by hundreds of cities and what’ve you got: a country where culture means pornography and slasher films, where ethics mans payoffs, graft insider trading, where integrity means lying, whoring, intoxication. This country is in deep trouble, people! This country is rotten to the core and somebody better do something about it. I want you to take your hand out of the bowl of Fritos, throw away your National Inquirer, and pick up that phone – go ahead PICK IT UP! Hold it up to your face and dial 555-T-A-L-K. Open your mouth and tell ’em what we’re gonna do about the mess this country’s in. TALK RADIO, it’s the last neighborhood in town. People just don’t talk to each other anymore.” – Barry Champlain
  8. “Like Barry always said, if you didn’t like him, turn him off! They didn’t have to kill him” – listener

Discussion Questions

  1. What are some of the consequences of the deregulation of radio? Should talk radio be in the best interests of the public?
  2. Is the Fairness Doctrine inconsistent with the first amendment, the right to free speech? Why would the Fairness Doctrine be considered unconstitutional?
  3. What similarities and differences can be seen between the regulation of radio versus television?

  1. What kind of lessons does Talk Radio teach us about media literacy?

Works Cited

“Alan Berg.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 27 Mar. 2012.


“Don Imus.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Mar. 2012. Web. 27 Mar. 2012.


Hazlett,Thomas W. and Sosa, David W. “Was The Fairness Doctrine A “Chilling Effect”?
Evidence from the Postderegulation Radio Market,” The Journal of Legal Studies, Vol.    26, No. 1 (January 1997) (pp. 279-301).

“Howard Stern.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Mar. 2012. Web. 27 Mar. 2012.


“Rush Limbaugh.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Mar. 2012. Web. 27 Mar. 2012.



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The Most Dangerous Man in America

March 20th, 2012 · Comments Off on The Most Dangerous Man in America

Lauren Bowie, Becca Sears, Sam Foster, Nick Farr
The Most Dangerous Man in America (2009)
Dir. Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
21 March 2012

Newspaper Influence: Pentagon Papers Revealed

The Most Dangerous Man in America is a documentary based on Daniel Ellsberg and the unveiling of the Pentagon Papers.  This was an extremely crucial moment in the world of journalism and the newspaper industry, as it was the key player in distributing information about the truths of the Vietnam War to the American people.  Ellsberg’s past enabled him to release this information, as he had previously served in the Pentagon and was also in Vietnam as a civilian.  Later, he resumed his work at the RAND Corporation, where he aided in the study of classified documents regarding the conduct of the Vietnam War that had been commissioned by Defense Secretary McNamara (Daniel Ellsberg).  These paper would later be coined as the Pentagon Papers.  In 1969, Ellsberg secretly made photocopies of the classified documents of which he had access with the help of his children and former colleague Anthony Russo.  Once these papers were leaked, he and his family remained in a hotel room while the news was distributed through different circulations, including .  Once enough of them had been read, the family came out of hiding and Ellsberg was revealed as the man who released the Top Secret documents.  Ellsberg has continued to participate in activist movements and demonstrations of topics he feels passionate.

The involvement of the press in the Pentagon papers scandal can be paralleled with that of the Watergate scandal. When Daniel Ellsberg decided to come forth with copies of 43 volumes of the Pentagon papers, New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan published the story, which made it to the front page. This newspaper article completely publicized the event. Street protests, lawsuits and political controversy ensued. At this point, much of the American public became skeptical of President Nixon, which eventually led to the Watergate scandal. Bob Woodward of The Washington Post caught wind of the Watergate scandal, he began to publish information from an anonymous source, “Deep Throat”. As the two reporters of the story, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, pursued their investigation, they eventually “connected cash found on the burglars to a slush fund used by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, a fundraising group for the Nixon campaign” ( This scandal, coupled with the exposure of the Pentagon papers, led to the eventual resignation of President Nixon. The press dug for information and was able to reveal corruption in the White House, which shows the power of newspapers and the media in the exposure of political scandals.
The New York Times v. United States (1971) was significant because it was the first time that the U.S. government tried to enforce the notion of “prior restraint” (New York Times).  The decision in the court case made the Constitution stronger in regard to protecting the press from printing classified materials.  Even the idea of “prior restraint” couldn’t override First Amendment protections such as freedom of the press and freedom of speech (New York Times).
The leak of the Pentagon Papers was also important because it set a judicial precedent for First Amendment cases.  The press was no longer tied to the government (The Most Dangerous Man in America).  In “Terrorism, Law Enforcement, and the Mass Media: Perspectives, Problems, Proposals,” M. Cherif Bassiouni notes, “In the Pentagon Papers Case, several Justices indicated that the inappropriateness of prior restraint in that case would not immunize the press from subsequent prosecution” (41).  Bassiouni further observes that the threat of criminal charges can cause the media to self-censor,

“to sustain a constitutional attack, a criminal sanction punishing publication of ‘lawfully obtained, truthful information’ after the event requires ‘the highest form of state interest,’ and demonstration that it’s punitive action was necessary to further the state interests asserted” (41).

In “Newsgathering, Press Access, and the First Amendment”, Timothy Dyk notes that after World War II, the formation of a stronger government led to “a corresponding need for a more effective press with greater access to information:” (929).  Dyk further notes that in this situation, “press access must be protected so that the press can bare the secrets of government and inform the people” (929).  But, expressing the view of the Supreme Court in its role as the highest legal authority, Justice Potter Stewart weighed in when he noted that the press clause in the First Amendment “should be construed to afford the institutional press special protection in certain circumstances, allowing the press to perform its proper role as both an adversary to, and check upon, an ever expanding government” (Dyk 931).

New York Times v. United States (1971) was a famous Supreme Court case, also known as the Pentagon Papers case.  President Nixon tried to prevent The Washington Post and New York Times from printing classified documents which detailed the history of U.S. military activities in Vietnam.  The fundamental question that the Supreme Court had to answer was, did Nixon’s efforts to censor publication of the Pentagon Papers violate the First Amendment? Nixon argued the idea of “prior restraint” was necessary in order to protect the government.  The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the New York Times, claiming that security should not be used to compromise the first amendment.  The Court also argued that the publication of the documents would not put the U.S. in immediate danger and thus, the idea of prior restraint wasn’t justified (IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law).
This documentary is a clear and vital piece that explains the importance of the newspapers during this time.  The New York Times took a huge risk in publishing this information, which triggered the further distributions among other circulations, including The Washington Post.  It is clear the leaks allowed for further investigation of the government, including the Watergate Scandal, mentioned earlier.  Becoming media literate allows us to examine the importance of all forms of media and how they have affected our society throughout history.  These types of things are still happening today.  WikiLeaks can be paralleled with the leaks of the Pentagon Papers, as their goal was and is to bring important news to the public eye.  Information continues to be leaked through these sources, including files related to the Guantanamo prison and 92,000 documents related to the war in Afghanistan between 2004 and the end of 2009 (WikiLeaks).  It is extremely important to stay informed and up to date with the information that is being distributed by journalists, through the news or the internet.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is it in any way the responsibility of a news organization, such as the New York Times, to be aware of the publishing of sensitive and classified documents in order to protect national security in a time of war?
  2. Does the general public have a right to know everything that our government does? Or is there a level in which secrecy is a necessary part of the governing process in order to protect the citizens interests and ensure safety? Is the news obligated to make sure it doesn’t release information that undermines the safety of American citizens?
  3. Is the publication of the pentagon papers covered by the first amendment (Freedom of the press) and if so how does the first amendment cover this act?

Important Quotes

  1. “There was a pattern of presidential lying.” Daniel Ellsberg
  2. “People have not asked enough of their public servants in terms of accountability, we need the courage to face the truth about what we are doing in the world and act responsibly to change it.” Daniel Ellsberg
  3. “What in God’s name have we been fighting for in this country for two- or three-hundred years to have the right to speak and the right to publish and the right to think against a threat by the gunman, if all we’re gonna do is give it all up when someone sends you a telegram.”
  4. “It was a crime from the start, with no end in sight. The hundreds of thousands we were killing was unjustified; it was no better than homicide.” Ellsberg
  5. “Henry, you’re about to get a lot of clearances higher than top secret that you did not know existed that is going to have a sequence of effects on you. First, you’ll feel exhilaration, and then you’ll feel like a fool. Then you will come to think everyone else is foolish, and in the end you just stop listening to them.” Ellsberg

Works Cited

Bassiouni, M. Cherif. “Terrorism, Law Enforcement, and the Mass Media: Perspectives,

Problems, Proposals.” The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-)  Vol. 72, No. 1 (Spring, 1981), pp. 1-51.

“Daniel Ellsberg.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.


Dyk, Timothy B. “Newsgathering, Press Access, and the First Amendment.”

Stanford Law Review Vol. 44, No. 5 (May, 1992), pp. 927-960.

“Most Dangerous Man.” Most Dangerous Man. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.


NEW YORK TIMES v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of

Law. 12 March 2012. <>.

“Times Topics: The Pentagon Papers.”  New York Times Online.

The Most Dangerous Man in America. Dir. Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith. Kovno

Communications, 2009. Netflix.

“WikiLeaks.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.


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All the President’s Men

March 6th, 2012 · Comments Off on All the President’s Men

Lauren Bowie, Becca Sears, Sam Foster, Nick Farr
All The President’s Men (1976)
Director Alan Pakula
March 7, 2012

Journalism in the Watergate Scandal

The 1976 film was produced surprisingly soon after the Watergate Scandal occurred in 1972.  All the President’s Men is based off the non-fiction book written by the two reporters who were on the story at the time.  The two journalists, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, worked for The Washington Post and took on what is now called some of the best reporting of all time.  Both the book and the movie are historically accurate and reflect the early days of the Watergate Investigation.  Bernstein and Woodward will forever be remembered as the men who unveiled one of the biggest scandals and controversies in American history.

First, it is important that we identify two supporting characters, both in the film and in the real life Watergate Scandal.  William Mark Felt, also known as Deep Throat, was an agent of the FBI who finally revealed himself in May of 2005.  During his time as associate director with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he secretly helped Bernstein and Woodward investigate and uncover the Watergate Scandal, which eventually lead to the resignation of Richard Nixon.  Benjamin Bradlee, the Vice President of The Washington Post, also played a key role in the success of Woodward and Bernstein.  Allowing the two young, relatively unknown journalists to take on such a big story was, and still is, considered a unique and daring move by the Vice President of a newspaper, especially one as well-known as The Washington Post.  The two main characters, Woodward and Bernstein, were two journalist who had just joined Ben Bradlee’s team.  Both became famous for their exposure of the Watergate scandal and other “dirty-tricks” by the Nixon administration and re-election committee.  The movie and the real-life events, however, are often criticized as not being parallel stories.

All the President’s Men gives Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein all of the credit for revealing the Watergate Scandal which led President Nixon to resign.  James Boylan notes, “Actually, as political scientist Edward Jay Epstein noted back in 1973, the government itself cracked the case in its early stages” (81).  Epstein further noted that during the period between the break in and the trial, the press revealed the case to the public (81).  Boylan notes it would be hard to glamorize the reality of the scandal in the film.  Boylan further observes, “The ‘Wood-stein” model was credited with filling the journalism schools (although, in fact, the influx of students had begun years earlier) and restoring to newspaper work much of its lost glamour” (81).

In a 1992 Washington Post article, Ken Ringle highlighted how All the President’s Men strayed from fact.  Ringle notes, “Dialogue and incidents throughout the news-gathering process were manufactured or exaggerated.  Only the discoveries themselves remain wholly authentic” (Washington Post, 1992).  In the film, Woodward and Bernstein are depicted as working alone in the newsroom a lot.  This was not the case in reality – multiple journalists were working in the newsroom.  Some real life people were trivialized or omitted all together.  For instance, Barry Susseman, an editor who played a crucial role in assisting Woodward and Bernstein, wasn’t depicted in the film at all.  Ringle notes, “Other small events are rearranged, names changed, characters combined or fictionalized, all by people so purportedly obsessed with “authenticity” that they spent tens of thousands of dollars duplicating the Washington Post newsroom, right down to the labels on the filing cabinets, then shipped genuine Washington Post trash to Hollywood to clutter its desks” (Washington Post 1992).

We see in the film that The Washington Post took a hold of a news story that was not originally based on information being distributed by The New York Times. In fact, The New York Times was almost ignoring the Watergate Scandal entirely.  Typically, other newspapers would write stories that paralleled those being distributed by The Times, which we can relate to the idea of agenda setting by the media.  Agenda setting can be defined by the media theory that says we are not only told what to think, but what to think about through the influences of media.  Gate keeping, a closely related theme, is the media’s ability to distribute certain information to the public or audience.  Gate keepers determine what is broadcast to their viewers.  It is then interesting to see how The Washington Post and Ben Bradlee’s team took on such a large story that was seemingly set aside by other distributors.  Highly uncommon, Bradlee gave these two young journalists a story that was either going to make headlines or destroy the reputation and credibility of The Post. This was Bradlee’s way of socializing Woodward and Bernstein into the culture of the post, and also provides insight on the significance of a so-called ‘rite of passage’ news reporters must go through until they can be proven worthy of investigating important stories. Clearly, Woodward and Bernstein earned their right to take on crucial stories and took their abilities in government investigations and journalism to other scandals after the resignation of Nixon.

Although we can say this story is more or less accurate, aside from changes in dialogue and the absence of a few players in uncovering the story, the movie was based off of the words written by Bernstein and Woodward.  As media literate individuals, we know that both the authors of the story and Hollywood producers have the power to change the story as they see best-fit.  They have the power to set and create the agenda, as discussed earlier. Movies and film from the beginning were aimed to entertain all classes, and so it is important to keep in mind that producers will generally create in order to make a profit and stimulate their audience.  In the case of All the President’s Men, the audience was entertained and stimulated by the suspense of the movie and the general, historical plot.  Because it was made in the 70’s, almost directly after the scandal, the movie was another way of reaching out to a greater audience to make people aware of current events while providing entertainment, and gained a wider audience due to its relevance of the times. Watching and analyzing this film increases our media literacy, while also reinforcing the power of film.


Important Quotes

  1. “You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up… 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I’m going to get mad. Goodnight.” – Ben Bradlee
  2. “Look, you’ve been jerking my chain all day. If there’s some reason you can’t talk to me–like the fact that you’ve already leaked everything to The New York Times–just say so.” – Carl Bernstein
  3. “Goddammit, when is somebody going to go on the record in this story? You guys are about to write a story that says the former Attorney General, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in this country, is a crook! Just be sure you’re right.” – Ben Bradlee
  4. Carl Bernstein: Boy, that woman was paranoid! At one point I – I suddenly wondered how high up this thing goes, and her paranoia finally got to me, and I thought what we had was so hot that any minute CBS or NBC were going to come in through the windows and take the story away. Bob Woodward: You’re both paranoid. She’s afraid of John Mitchell, and you’re afraid of Walter Cronkite.
  5. “We’re never told flat out ‘don’t talk.’” – Sloan
  6. “Follow the money.” – Deep Throat


Discussion Questions

  1. Compare the events in the film or the actual scandal to muckraking (ex. The Jungle, etc.).  Do you see any parallels between past muckraking and the film? How have muckrakers glorified characters in the past? How can we relate this glorification to the film?
  2. The film was based on the book All the President’s Men, which was written by Woodward and Bernstein after they exposed the scandal at Watergate.  Becoming media literate means being able to identify misguided information and acknowledging media influence on our society.  How can we relate this to the idea of translation, with respect to the actual story, to the book, and finally to the Hollywood production?
  3. In order to uncover many of the lies and secrets during the investigation of the Watergate Scandal, Woodward and Bernstein often planned out tricks they would use in order to get the full story from their sources.  Do you think this is an ethical way of getting information?  If “white lies” are told to a source in order to reveal important information, and eventually uncover a story that impacts society on a national level, is it morally justifiable?


Works Cited

Boylan, James. “Newspeople.” The Wilson Quarterly 6.5 (1982): 71-85. JSTOR. Web. 5 Mar. 2012.

Ringle, Ken. “Journalism’s Finest 2 Hours and 16 Minutes.” The Washington Post 14 June, 1992. 5 Mar. 2012.    te.htm



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Quiz Show

February 28th, 2012 · Comments Off on Quiz Show

Lauren Bowie, Sam Foster, Becca Sears, Nick Farr
Quiz Show (1994)
Dir. Robert Redford
29 February 2012

Television Entertainment

Scandal in Game Shows


Quiz Show is based on the true story of Charles Van Doren, a professor from Columbia University, who was caught up in a cheating scandal on a game show in 1959.  Although the film is based largely on fact, there a few details that are not consistent between the two. For example, in the film, Van Doren voluntarily quit the show; this wasn’t true in reality.  Robert Wright (1980) notes, “Van Doren’s exploits had made him a national celebrity, and it was thus with some dismay that the country absorbed the news: not only had his responses been provided in advance; even the smiles and grimaces were coached; he finally lost only after being instructed to take a dive” (286). Now that television was in the homes of the majority of Americans, it seemed more probable to make money when the program was secretly rigged.  Scandal now was not only in the newspapers, but had been absorbed by television stations such as NBC, which we can see reflected both in historical events and in the production of the film Quiz Show.

According to an April, 1960 article, “Federal Communications Commission: Control of Deceptive Programming”, published by the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the FCC was investigating the rigging of popular quiz shows such as Twenty One and $64,000 Question. The former chairman of the FCC, John C. Dooerfer, argued that the FCC didn’t have the authority to take action against “deceptive programming”.  Instead, he believed that the FCC could only take action against programming if it violated a certain law.  The attorney general at the time argued that the FCC was “currently competent to regulate program deception” by means of review of a broadcaster’s past performance in license renewal proceedings (University of Pennsylvania 868-869).
The rigging of game shows had a purpose.  Audiences liked watching the quiz shows because they enjoyed the entertainment value.  They were unaware of the behind the scenes rigging.  The “Federal Communications Commission: Control of Deceptive Programming” report notes, “Demonstratively, also, the viewers of the rigged programs were induced to purchase their sponsors’ products” (University of Pennslyvania 870).  Great entertainment produced product buying surges. In order to keep the television shows on air, it was key to keep the ratings up and to keep the audience engaged in the program.  If this did not happen, the show would be kicked off the air and the station would simultaneously lose a large audience and a large sum of money.  As it is reflected in the film, the producers wanted people to become connected to the people on the program; they wanted the audience to feel they knew the contestant on a personal level.  This would, in turn, keep people interested in the show and the final outcome at the end of the night.

The revelations of the riggings may have made audiences more media literate.  The “Federal Communications Commission: Control of Deceptive Programming” report notes, “Yet it might be argued that, to the extent that disclosure has made the mass communication audience aware of the possibilities of such practices as rigging, the experience will breed a more critical perspective which will decrease the frequency – and the success – of such attempts in the future” (University of Pennsylvania 872).   The naïve audience began to learn the lessons of media manipulation.  This leads society to beg the question, how much can we actually trust the information distributed by the media?  It is extremely important to emphasize the role advertising plays in the construction of the media, and in turn our society.

More and more often, we are seeing advertisers having a stronger influence in what happens in the media.  In the film, for example, Geritol has Herb removed from the television show because he wasn’t what the audience wanted to see.  This lead NBC casting to have Herb “take a dive” on a question on live television.  They also state later in the movie that “a Jew was always followed by a gentile.” This is entirely reflective on how media takes charge of the information they wish to distribute, or gate-keeping.  This signifies, according to Baran, that media chooses what information is shown to the audience and dictate what can and cannot be shown.  In the movie, Twenty-One was beginning to lose ratings, and in turn money, so they decided to put someone else on the air who they believed fit the description.  This idea goes hand in hand with agenda setting by the media.  They not only tell us what to think, but also what to think about, further proving the dependency theory, which states people are becoming increasingly dependent on media to understand the social world around them.  It is scary to think that this is happening even during game shows, which are seemingly harmless to those who are media illiterate.

It seems that even today, our society enjoys watching game shows, reality television and other programs broadcast by large corporations.  This makes the idea of media literacy increasingly important in order for our society to avoid falling into the traps set out by these forms of mass communication that try to shape our culture and our lives.  All of the movies watched and analyzed are a good sign- people are starting to highlight flaws in our media-run society. We can then ask the question, how is watching these movies– another form of entertainment– helpful in adjusting our current positions?  Hopefully, the viewers of such films will realize the message the producers are intending to communicate and our society as a whole can take further steps in becoming media literate.

Important Quotes

  1. “That box is the biggest thing since Gutenberg invented the printing press, and I’m the biggest thing on it.” – Herb
  2. “You see, the audience didn’t tune in to watch some amazing display of intellectual ability.  They just wanted to watch the money.”- Martin Rittenhome
  3. “Speculation in our society has a way of becoming fact…television is a public trust. We can’t afford even a hint of scandal in our company.”- Robert Kintner
  4. “If they prefer to be lied to, they can turn on the television.” -Herb
  5. “For 64,000 dollars I hope they ask you for the meaning of life” – Mr. Van Doren


Discussion Questions

  1. How can we compare and contrast the scandals of game shows with the “reality” television of which a majority of society seems to be absorbed by?
  2. Today, many people buy into reality television and game shows that are produced and broadcast nationally.  Why do you think we haven’t learned from past scandals and historical events?  Why is it that our society is drawn to these shows when, in the back of our minds, we realize these situations aren’t actually real, as they claim to be? Is being ‘media literate’ enough to suspend such televised shows?
  3. How can we parallel The Truman Show to Quiz Show? Where can we see the dialectic relationship between the commercial interest and the political or democratic interest? How can we see the dialectic relationship of society and media reflected in Robert Redford’s film?

Works Cited

Federal Communications Commission: Control of “Deceptive Programming” L. S. T.  University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Vol. 108, No. 6 (Apr., 1960), pp. 868-892.

Wright, Robert.  “Eisenhower’s Fifties,” The Antioch Review 38.3 (1980), pp. 277-290.




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Good Night and Good Luck

February 21st, 2012 · Comments Off on Good Night and Good Luck

Lauren Bowie, Becca Sear, Sam Foster, Nick Farr
Good Night and Good Luck
Producer: George Clooney
22 February 2012

Media Importance

The dialectic between political and commercialized sectors


Produced in 2005 and directed by George Clooney, Good Night and Good Luck, presents an interesting commentary on the world of media during the time of which the film took place.  As a black and white film,  it is easy to associate it with an older media era when televisions were a commodity, and information distributed by newscasters was given to those who held the privilege of owning one.  The film presents the story, or conflict, rather, of Senator McCarthy and Edward Murrow.  Murrow, through his television program, intends to identify the flaws of McCarthy, and his corrupt actions based on anti-communism.  McCarthy, it appears, has inflicted fear in the hearts of the public. Those who do not agree with him are considered communists, or sympathizers of the communist party.  In the end, we see the film intends to inform the audience about media responsibility and the power it holds, while also demonstrating what happens when the media offers a voice of dissent against government opinion (Wikipedia, 2012).

Connections can be drawn between Edward R. Murrow’s 1958 speech to the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and Newton N. Minow’s famous 1961 speech to broadcasters.  In that speech, Minow, the chairman of the FCC, notes,“. . . . I asked the nation’s broadcasters ‘to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book , magazine, newspaper, profit-and-loss sheet, or rating book to distract you – and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off.  I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland…’ I asked ‘is there one person in this room who claims that broadcasting can’t do better?” (Minow, 18 ). Minow further reflects he didn’t want his speech to be remembered in the context of a “vast wasteland, ” stating, “The words we tried to advance were public interest. To me, the public interest meant, and still means, that we should constantly ask: What can television do for our country?  – for the common good? – for the American people?” (Minow 19).

Minow’s speech can be connected to Murrow’s speech both in the context of the film and in real life.  In reality, Minow received a phone call from Murrow saying, “Newt, you gave the same speech I gave two years ago, but nobody listened.  Good for you – you’ll get a lot of heat and criticism, but don’t lose your courage” (Minow 18).  Both in the film and in real life, Murrow noted that during his 1958 RTDNA speech the television could be used as a teaching tool that people could learn from.  Or, the television was “merely wires and lights in a box” (Good Night and Good Luck).

Murrow highlights important points during his speech to the RTDNA.  He forecasts the idea of infotainment noting, “The top management of the networks with a few notable exceptions has been trained in advertising, research, sales or show business. But by the nature of the corporate structure, they also make the final and crucial decisions having to do with news and public affairs” (Murrow, para. 17).  Murrow knew that the clash between commercial interests and news was coming, if not already there.  At the end of the film, Murrow was moved to a less desirable Sunday time slot and given just five more shows – ratings and commercialism prevailed.

While observing this film, we should also keep in mind the effects that media has on our every day lives, and who it is that continues to shape our cultural and societal values.  Throughout the film, many statements are thrown around to which we can all relate.  Now, for example, conglomerates own newspapers and the news is commercialized because they care more about the bottom line, earning a profit, than the information they distribute to the public.  In the film, Fred states, “There’s no news, boys, so go out there and make some news. Rob a bank, mug an old lady, whatever– just do something.”  This reinforces the idea of not only our gullibility and rejection of agency when it comes to reading information put in front of us, but it also reiterates the idea that at the end of the day, what is important to many news teams is their ability to make money and to produce a story that is intriguing to the targeted audience.  Here, we can delve back into the idea of media responsibility.  All forms of media have captivation techniques, and in this particular film, CBS Studios feels they must take on the responsibility of addressing the untouched information

Also extremely important in the film is the concept of government versus media.  As we discussed in class, it is dialectic.  One cannot be talked about without discussing the other.  Good Night and Good Luck demonstrates how powerful the voice of the media is, not only on the public of which it aims, but also to the government.  The speech Murrow broadcasts brings to light the underlying corruption of Senator McCarthy and his way of governing the people, so much so that in the end, the Senate investigates McCarthy and finally censures him all together.  Yet again, we are given a representation of the power behind the media and it’s ability to censure a powerful government official.

Important Quotes

  1. “There’s no news, boys, so go out there and make some news. Rob a bank, mug an old lady, whatever – just do something” – Fred Friendly
  2. “We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” – Murrow
  3. “Go after Joe Kennedy, I’ll pay you for that.” – Sig to Murrow
  4. “We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late” – Murrow
  5. Edward R. Murrow: We’ll split the advertising, Fred and I. He just won’t have any presents for his kids at Christmas.

Sig Mickelson: He’s a Jew.

Edward R. Murrow: Well don’t tell him that. He loves Christmas.

NOTE: This quote is extremely important when discussing cost of editorials and

what it takes to actually produce the news.


Discussion Questions

  1. We have talked greatly about convergence during our class meetings, and it seems we all have noticed the mixing of different forms of media in our daily lives.  In the film, Good Night and Good Luck, we can identify with much of the upheaval that is presented.  How do we see media and government colliding? In what ways do they support or destruct one another?
  2. A very important scene in the movie occurs in a pub-like restaurant, where the news team has gathered after Murrow’s broadcasting.  Shirley is sent to receive the newspapers so they can examine and read through the articles that critique the recently aired television show.  Much criticism came to the man who approved the message of Murrow, and in the end, he commits suicide.  How can we relate this scene to the power of media, and the responsibility it holds over our society?
  3. In the film, it appears that Murrow and the rest of the news team at CBS Studios use their power in the media for good.  They intend to show the public what is truly going on in the government, or at least highlight what people already know, so the issues can be talked about without fear, which has been inflicted on the people by McCarthy.  Do you believe the media today still use their power for good?
  4. During the movie, the news team is anxious to broadcast the statement against McCarthy.  They talk about the difference between the broadcast being ethically sound and the legalities of the episodes production, as some of the team feels they may be leaking information that should not be distributed.  How can we relate these issues of legality and leaking private or confidential information in today’s media?

Works Cited

“Good Night, and Good Luck.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Oct. 2012. Web. 21 Feb.

2012. <,_and_Good_Luck>.

Murrow, Edward R. “Edward R. Murrow’s Speech.” Radio Television Digital News Association,                     1958.

Minow, Newton N. “Stated Meeting Report: How Vast the Wasteland Now?” Bulletin of the

American Academy of Arts and Sciences 45.5 (1992): 16-30.



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