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The Insider

April 10th, 2012 · No Comments

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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