My students no doubt know by now how much I love movies.
For the first time this quarter we instituted Journalism Movie Night here at Ohio State, where we gather to enjoy pizza, candy and a cinematic rendering of journalistic pursuit. And every quarter I look forward to sharing with them a film that represents journalistic struggle or accomplishment–true in fact or spirit.
This quarter my beginning news writers swelled with journalistic pride over “All the President’s Men“–how does it not get old after 30-plus viewings?–while my Comm 422 students spent interview time with David Frost and Richard Nixon (“Frost/Nixon“) or pondering a world where one journalist stood up to governmental tyranny at the cost of his own career (Edward R. Murrow in “Good Night and Good Luck“).
There is both a stirring and a silence in the room as we shared these cinematic experiences, as they realize (I hope) some hidden actualities of the profession they pursue.
- Yes, there was a world before Google, where reporters dug through a rooms filled with phone books for numbers.
- Getting in your car and driving around to talk to sources–instead of using the phone or the modern miracle of email and social media– still works brilliantly to get you the information you seek.
- Asking the right questions is still the most important factor in getting good answers during an interview, and if you don’t control the interview, your subject will.
- Telling tough stories is not easy or without challenge–physically, emotionally or morally.
- Truth is not always easy to see–even when it’s right in front of you.
- A world without impartial journalists is a scary world indeed.
I love the movies we watch because a) they are really well made and b) they show journalists as they should be, not as they often are or perceived. They show the integrity that compelled generations of us to seek this profession in the first place. They show real people who make real mistakes and have real beliefs and convictions. And they have the real desire to make a difference.
I hope my students discover in themselves the same.
The quarter and school year are coming to a close. Some of my students will be with me again; others are headed to other classes, or out into the world to make their way and show their worth. I thank them for all they have committed and all they have taught me.
Journalism friends–please post here one piece of advice you might offer our next generation of Woodwards and Bernsteins, Murrows and Frosts. And my much-respected students–how about posting one piece of advice you would give those who are coming up behind you?
Those who forget the past may be doomed to repeat it, but may those who remember the glory of journalism’s past emulate it to an even fairer and more accurate tomorrow.