Earlier this week the President of the United States managed to pull the wool off the eyes of the press corps. While many of the press gladly would have gone along for the ride some thought this was a tragic precedent to set.
"That's just not kosher," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Reporters are in the business of telling the truth. They can't decide it's okay to lie sometimes because it serves a larger truth or good cause."
That kind of outrage by the press is often bewildering and mostly just boils down to a major case of the "superiorities". That's why the new film "Shattered Glass" is such a horror for most journalists. The keepers of integrity in public life and the shapers of so much opinion can never be seen as infallible or corruptible or worse just plain wrong.
The film, based on the exploits of The New Republic magazine's Stephen Glass, details how a young writer fabricated in part or in full 27 of his 41 articles. The first story that was written by Glass to be initially uncovered by another organization was, it now seems, completely fabricated right down to a now outrageously simplistic fake business website.
Many reviews blame the current era and influence of fame that may cause journalists to fabricate stories. But it is nothing new. In a USA Today review DeWayne Wickham includes a 1924 quote by H.L. Mencken. "Journalism, to a considerable degree, has ceased to be the profession of intelligent, idealistic and charming gentlemen. It has become the profession of public office seekers, title hunters, social pushers, dollar diddlers, mountebanks and cads."
It was probably the meteoric rise of Woodward and Bernstein during Watergate that caused many to automatically trust journalists above all else and with good reason. But clearly given Menken's thoughts long before the advent of fame inducing tools such as the Internet, cell phones, 24-hour cable news channels, and movie deals there was fortune seekers in the business and motivation to capitalize on them.
Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun movie critic sees Stephen Glass as someone who, "occupies a position between whiz kid and class clown in a milieu that's hungry for both." And this only partially reflects badly on the press, as we certainly do our part too.