A Question of Ethics

In the movie Shattered Glass, the editor Charles “Chuck” Lane is a new editor for the The New Republic, a newspaper reporting articles on politics and entertainment. Chuck is notified by a rival online newspaper that his rising star reporter, Stephen Glass, has published a story and the facts don’t add up. Chuck is then forced to double check Glass’ work and finds that over half of the articles Glass has published were completely fabricated.

Chuck Lane was the most ethical character in the movie because he did not just ignore the problem or try to defend Glass without checking out the facts himself. He also gave Glass multiple opportunities to prove his truthfulness but each time they fell flat. Lane was also faced with reporting to the rest of the journalists that Glass was a fraud. This was difficult, however, since Glass had spent the last several years building up a reputation of being an innocent sweetheart that knew what everyone liked and never forgot an important fact about his co-workers. Glass’ gift of persuasion blinded the whole office to what he was actually doing. That alone is impressive!

Editors in the publishing world come across instances of plagiarism and  fabrication all the time in their careers. Sometimes it is much harder to catch than others because a journalist’s reputation could have so much credibility that no one is willing to blow the whistle on them, as in Glass’ case.

Here are some ways that editors and publishers can use to detect instances of fraud and plagiarism in the publishing world:

1.) Does the story sound too good to be true? This should automatically draw a red flag. You’re writer has pitched a story that seems so entertaining and improbable that you just love it. But before you get carried away, check behind them to see if the facts match up. If you don’t, someone else will.

2.) Is the writer writing in the past or present tense? According to Fraud Magazine, writers tend to write in the past-tense when talking about an event that they were a part of instead in the present, describing the scene first-hand.

3.) Am I taking their word just because they have a good reputation at the company? Even the most esteemed writers can fabricate and plagiarize. Marie-Louise Gumuchian from CNN was fired for repeated plagiarism offenses and the real Stephen Glass of the New Republis did actually fabricate 27 of his 41 pieces published at The New Republic. Just because they seem credible, doesn’t mean they are.

In most cases, no matter how likable, credible, or seemingly harmless your writer is, it never hurts to double check their work. It could save the company and the editor a lot of headache and bad publicity. Chuck lane did the right thing by checking not only the one article in question, but all of Stephen Glass’ articles. In the end, it turned out better for the newspaper by finding and admitting their mistake instead of continuing their own trust in their fellow writer.

 

 

A Champion for Truth

Michael Rezendes, played by Mark Ruffalo in the film Spotlight, is a passionate journalist working for The Globe, a newspaper in Boston Maryland. He is one of four investigative journalists on the specialize team, Spotlight, which investigates sensitive topics of great importance. His part in the team is as the go-to guy for getting things done.

I connected with his character a lot in the movie because of his passion and tenacity. He was the one who took the hardest sources and worked with them until they gave him the information that he needed. One of the characters that he worked with the most was with Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer who had worked with victims of priest molestation. Garabedian refused to talk with him at first, saying that he was too busy and did not want to answer any questions. Rezendes, however, was not daunted and persistently contacted Garabedian to get information, asking questions until he got answers but also forming a sort of relationship with him. Garabedian’s work was too sensitive to just give away to anybody so he had to make sure that Rezendes was genuine in his mission to uncover the truth and expose the system for what it is.

This exemplifies good journalism because although he broke some of the Journalism rules in terms of how he got information and how he pressured his sources, it also gave him the information he needed to prove that the Catholic church had been intentionally hiding the fact that 79 priests in Boston alone were molesting children and were still allowed to molest children. It was the story of the century and he was in charge of getting the evidence to back the victim’s statements so that they could run the story. in other words, he had the most important job of the four people on the Spotlight team.

Rezendes also knew how to navigate the complicated legalistic structure that he had to work with in order to get the documents he needed as proof. He knew that in order to get them, he had to get there before another journalist could get to them. He also knew that if the desk clerk was not willing to give him the documents, that he could talk to a judge and get them pushed through. Rezendes met with some resistance when he met with the judge in order to get the documents released because the Judge questioned his intentions with the documents since they were of such a sensitive nature and directly challenged the power of the Catholic Church, which the judge was a member. He did eventually get the information but he had to tread carefully in order to get them.

Mike Rezendes was an essential part of the team because he was the one to get the legal proof that Spotlight needed in order to further the investigation not for a few priests in Boston, but for all of them and force the Catholic Church to take responsibility of the thousands of lives that they destroyed by allowing these priests to continue molesting children. It was a historical moment and it was all thanks to Rezendes’ persistence, determination, passion, and empathy that made him so good at his job. The Spotlight team changed the view of the Catholic Church forever.