While the temptation may be to think only of showing a film as a few easy class days, that approach limits student learning and smothers teacher vitality. HOWARD SPANOGLE, author, “Directors of the Screen,” spring 2007
Turn into a film advocate-educator. An academic entrepreneur. A giver of enlightenment. A donor of opportunities for insights. All by using visual media effectively.
CITATION: Spanogle, Howard. “Directors of the Screen.” Communication: Journalism Education Today, 40(3), spring 2007.
By Howard Spanogle
In the journalism classroom, films and on-air tapes/DVDs are only as good as the teacher using them. As for any publication or broadcast, preparation unlocks the brain and the pathway to productive results.
First, teachers must make strategic decisions.
WHEN YOU SHOW IT
Pay attention to timing: during the year, for curriculum emphasis, for mental involvement, for publication schedules and for multi-year journalism students.
In addition to scheduling films at the appropriate time each year, films should be on a two- or three-year plan so that students enrolled in advanced journalism classes do not experience repeats. Rather, students should increase their knowledge and broaden their perspectives. Nothing is more deadening than an exasperated student’s comment, “Oh, we’ve seen that before.”
It is bad enough if the first viewing occurred in eighth grade under the guidance of an ambitious journalism teacher of younger students. It is inexcusable if multiple viewings occur in classes under your leadership.
WHY YOU SHOW IT
Every method needs a pedagogical purpose. While the temptation may be to think only of showing a film as a few easy class days, that approach, when repeated frequently, limits student learning and smothers teacher vitality. Plus, the approach is outdated, a word that is unwelcome in innovative journalism environments.
Definitely showing a tape of a TV news broadcast or a documentary or a short news feature can help students connect principles and performance. They will learn about current problems and noteworthy actions.
For journalism instruction, however, they will also learn to consider essential questions such as the following: How did the producers prepare for the interviews and the visual enhancement of the broadcast? What are the results? The slant? The value? The follow-up? And that kind of inquiry inculcates incentives and methodology that they can use for their own publications and broadcasts.
Beyond those questions are the implications for the media that your students produce. How is media interacting? What are they doing to go beyond the traditional electronic and the print perspectives? How are they responding to blogs and to podcasts?
The observations and the opportunities have obvious implications for contemporary media. Why should an active student newspaper have an online version of the newspaper, one that can be updated daily? What messages does that send about responsibility and about contemporary needs?
HOW YOU SHOW IT
Not always the same way please. Cautions are easy to imagine. However, the problems are rather easy to avoid with attentive effort. New possibilities are more stimulating to envision.
Plan. Preview. Create pertinent worksheets and supplementary material. Avoid the time-filler syndrome. Instead, connect to goals, themes, timely topics and new approaches.
Showing the complete film may be the first option, but it may not be the best choice. Consider other possibilities: using a small segment of a film, developing computer/digital presentations, assigning students to view and to critique a film as an out-of-class assignment and using film circles, in which groups of four to six students view different films together and report to the class. Make the most of the many resources available.
Collaborate with other journalism teachers to make new but legal decisions about how to use films to fit modern classroom needs. Share your enthusiasm so young journalists may discover the enjoyment of films featuring media roles.
Look for changes that bring impact to journalism instruction. See the full dimension of the media world.
HOWARD SPANOGLE, Communication: Journalism Education Today assistant editor, formerly advised the Glenbard East Echo (Illinois) and the Highland Park Bagpipe (Texas). Now located in Asheville, North Carolina, he has edited books, newsletters and yearbook curriculum projects. He is a recipient of JEA’s Carl Towley Award, the Medal of Merit and the Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also received NSPA’s Pioneer Award.
Have a movie night.
For example, I have a Newsies
Night early in the year for my Journalism I students. It helps them bond and we really enjoy singing and dancing right along with this Disney favorite. I always show the extras on the DVD that tell the real story of the newsie strike and utilize the background research available.
I have been showing Shattered Glass in class for a few years now and using the teacher/student guide supplied by Lions Gate Films. We also watch the “60 Minutes” interview with Stephen Glass. It is great for starting or finishing a media ethics unit. It also creates some gung-ho fact checkers among beginning students who want to catch the experienced staffers in a fabrication.
Marsha Kalkowski, MJE
Marian High School (Omaha, Nebr.)
Gone is the era when teachers taped films and used them over and over again in classrooms. Present is the time when teachers find the films the want to show online – on YouTube. But just because a video is available on YouTube or via a DVD in Redbox doesn’t mean it is available for use in the classroom for reasons, both legal and pragmatic. Fair Use doctrines dictate the legal aspects of use. The pragmatic is important because ownership requires thoughtful decisions and encourages commitment to pedagogical planning.
In addition, ownership permits journalism teachers to do careful preparation, from development of student response sheets to selection of small parts of any film to use. In addition, teachers may view journalism-related films for their own enrichment and for their personal enjoyment. As people involved in weekly deadlines, they can appreciate both the informative and the entertaining value of movies, whether documentaries or fictional narratives.
Repeated usage of on-air tapings of news broadcasts and other programs has strict limitations, as explained below. Rather than viewing the restrictions as burdensome, journalism teachers should recognize how the law encourages them to be up-to-date in classroom choices.
Use of films in the classroom
Non-print materials, such as DVDs and videos, have become increasingly valuable sources of information and creative expression. While most school districts support the use of visual media in the instructional program, teachers are expected to use sound professional judgment when selecting a film and other media resources to use with students. Also, faculty must be aware of both the Federal Copyright Law and the Fair Use practices as they apply to the use of such media in the classroom.
Teachers should properly inform students of the content of the movie, regardless of its rating, and give students choosing not to view the movie the option of an alternative assignment. If a parental permission slip is needed to show the film/video, the parents and students should receive the permission slip at least five school days prior to the viewing.
By law, when a teacher shows any video that does not include “public performance rights,” he or she must comply with the “Fair Use” provision and Chapter 1, Section 110 of the Copyright Law. The following is a summary of the guidelines from those documents.
Videos shown in school should …
- be used with students in “face-to-face” instruction with the teacher.
- be directly related to the curriculum and to the current instruction.
- be correlated to instructional objectives.
- be shown in the normal instructional setting, not in such large group settings as the auditorium.
- not be used for extracurricular, reward or recreational use.
- not be used for fundraising, inferring that no admission may be charged for a film showing.
- be “lawfully made.” The teacher may not duplicate a copy in violation of Fair Use, without the knowledge of the copyright holder. Also, the teacher may not knowingly purchase an illegal copy.
If you tape a video from a regular, commercial or “free” network, you must apply the Fair Use guidelines. You may show the video once (implying showings for different class periods) and repeat that showing once within 10 consecutive school days of the broadcast. The clip may not be used in school after the 45-day period outlined in the fair-use guidelines.
For the following 35 days, teachers may keep the tape for evaluation purposes only. The copied video must be destroyed after 45 days. Special permission must be obtained to show any videotape or DVD recordings from cable or satellite television, such as HBO or Disney.
- “Guidelines for Showing Films in the Classroom” from Northwest Community Schools
- “Copyright Law of the United States of America and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code”
- “Fair Use” (U.S. Copyright Office)
- “Copyright Crash Course: and Fair Use” from the University of Texas at Austin
- “Movies and Licensing–Showing movies at school” from Portland Public Schools
- “Copyright and Fair Use” from Stanford University
- Copyright from the University of California
- Unleashing Connectivity and Entertainment in America
Clear communication with parents prevents problems
Journalism teachers need to make professional decisions about using films so each choice will enhance and will further the development of journalism skills and ethics by their students. It is also important to inform parents so they are aware of what kinds of films their students will see and will discuss.
Never show a film without previewing it. Also, never show a film or a part of the film without determining its contribution to your educational goals in the journalism classroom. In addition, inform parents about what films their students will view and how the films will encourage critical thinking and will stimulate intellectual growth as journalists. Also, incorporate classroom films and enrichment films in curriculum guides on file at your school/district.
At the beginning of each course, include a list of the ratings. Before using each film, send appropriate letters requested a signed permission response from parents. If appropriate, list films used in the course on your Web site or on a handout you develop for parents’ night.
Another way to help parents understand the pressures and the potential of journalism is to provide a selective list of journalism films they may watch on their own or with their students. Edit the list to fit the needs and the expectations of your parents. Also, avoid listing films used in academic journalism courses so that students will not be overexposed to the more selective choices.
Following the form below, type copies of the letter to parents/guardians. Fill in the blanks as appropriate, and distribute the letter to parents with sufficient time for them to respond before you use the selected film in class. Save each file so that you can update it for other films or usage.
G • Often used without parental permission
A film with a G rating contains nothing in theme, language, nudity and sex, violence, etc. that would, in the view of the Rating Board, be offensive to parents whose younger children view the movie. Some snippets of language may go beyond polite conversation, but they are common everyday expressions. No stronger words are present in G-rated films. The violence is minimal. Nudity and sex scenes are not present. Nor is there any drug use content.
PG • Often used without parental permission in grades 7-12
A film with a PG rating clearly needs to be considered by parents before they let their children attend. The label PG plainly states parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children, but it permits the parent to make the decision. The theme of a PG-rated film may itself call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity in these films. Also, there may be some violence or brief nudity. There is no drug use content in a PG-rated film.
PG-13 • Used without parental permission in grades 9-12
A film with a PG-13 rating requires additional considerations. Any drug use content will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. If nudity is sexually oriented, the film will generally not be found in the PG-13 category. If violence is too rough or persistent, the film goes into the R category. PG-13 is designed to make parental decisions easier for films between PG and R.
R • Used only in grades 9-12 with parental permission
A film with an R rating definitely contains some adult material. An R-rated film may include strong language, violence, nudity, drug abuse and other elements — or a combination of the above — so parents are counseled in advance to take this advisory rating seriously.
NC-17 or X • Should not be used in a classroom environment
A film with an NC-17 or X rating declares that the Rating Board believes this is a film that most parents will consider patently too adult for youngsters under 17. No children will be admitted in public theaters. NC-17 does not necessarily mean obscene or pornographic. NC-17 rating can indicate excessive violence, sex, aberrational behavior, drug abuse or any other elements that, when present, most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children.
Your child is studying [____] as part of his/her coursework in [____] class. To enhance your child’s learning experience/understanding of [____], I am planning to show the movie [____] (or excerpts from it) on [____]. A summary of the movie is below.
Though the film is rated [____], I am convinced of its learning value. The rating is due to [____]. I can assure you that the film will be shown in appropriate context, including discussion and activities before and after viewing. I believe that my students have the maturity to view this film and believe it will enhance the following educational goals: [____].
Please complete the form below, either authorizing or exempting your child from viewing [____]. Unless I receive this signed permission slip by [date], I will not permit your child to view this movie. If you do not wish to have your son/daughter view this film, I will gladly provide a relevant and appropriate alternative assignment.
CHECK ONLY ONE
[ ] It is acceptable for [____] to view the movie as indicated above.
[ ] t is NOT acceptable for [____] to view the movie as indicated above. My child will complete the alternative assignment.
[Attach a one-paragraph summary of the movie.]
Absence of Malice
Suppose you picked up this morning’s newspaper and your life was a front page headline… And everything they said was ACCURATE… But none of it was TRUE?
CITATION: Salisbury, Jeffrey. “Absence of Malice.” Communication: Journalism Education Today, 40(3), spring 2007.
From 2007 edition — JEFFREY SALISBURY, CJE, advises the newspaper, yearbook and literary magazine at Wayland Union High School in Michigan. He is active with the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, for which he has been making presentations since 1995. He was a finalist for the Golden Pen (adviser of the year) award from MIPA. Also, he is a city council member for the City of Wayland. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism education from Michigan State University. @jeffsalisbury67
All the President’s Men
Ben Bradlee: [W]hen 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.
DOWNLOAD MOVIE GUIDE TO ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN From 2002 edition — CITATION: Wilson, B. “All the President’s Men: A Guide for Teaching the Movie and Book in Your Classroom.” Communication: Journalism Education Today, 36(1), fall 2002.
BRADLEY WILSON, MJE, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Midwestern State University in Texas. Wilson is the editor of JEA’s national magazine, Communication: Journalism Education Today. He has received the Gold Key from CSPA, the Pioneer Award from NSPA, the Star of Texas from ATPI, the Trailblazer Award from TAJE and the Carl Towley Award from JEA
Good Night & Good Luck
Edward R. Murrow: We will not walk in fear, one of another
DOWNLOAD MOVIE GUIDE TO GOOD NIGHT & GOOD LUCK— CITATION: Bowen, C. “Good Night & Good Luck: In the Classroom.” Communication: Journalism Education Today, fall 2007. Retrieved from http://jea.org/wp/home/for-educators/cjet/onlinesupp/jclassroommovies/
CANDACE PERKINS BOWEN, MJE, is associate professor at Kent (Ohio) State University and directs its Center for Scholastic Journalism. Previously, she was a high school journalism teacher/media adviser in Illinois and Virginia. She is a former DJNF High School Journalism Teacher of the Year. Bowen started JEAHELP email distribution list while JEA president, serves on Certification and Press Rights committees and is the new Editing leader for the Curriculum Initiative.
‘Without newsies, nobody knows nothin’ ’
CITATION: Wilson. B. “Carrying the banner: The newsies strike of 1899″ and “‘Without newsies, nobody knows nothin’ ’.” Communication: Journalism Education Today, 40(3), spring 2007.
CITATION: Robbins, T. “Page One: A Movie Guide.” Communication: Journalism Education Today, 50(3), spring 2017.
Never let the truth get in the way of a good story
CITATION: Nichols, S. and Pratt, C. “The Paper Viewing Guide” and “The Paper Partner Test A.” Communication: Journalism Education Today, 40(3), spring 2007.
SARAH NICHOLS, MJE, advises student media at Whitney H.S. in Rocklin, California, where her students have been recognized with top national and state honors. Nichols is JEA’s president and a member of the Scholastic Press Rights and Digital Media committees. A former National Yearbook Adviser of the Year, she has been honored with JEA’s Carl Towley Award and Medal of Merit and NSPA’s Pioneer Award.
“Do you know what my husband said about the news? He called it the first rough draft of history.” | Katherine Graham (played by Meryl Streep) in ‘The Post’
CITATION: Wilson, B. “The Post: Movies in the Classroom” Communication: Journalism Education Today, 52(1), fall 2018.
Download the screenplay for The Post
Chuck Lane: You’re fired, Steve.
Stephen Glass: What?
Chuck Lane: You’re fired, Steve. You’ve lost your job.
CITATION: Belmas, G. “Using ‘Shattered Glass’ in the Classroom.” Communication: Journalism Education Today, 40(3), spring 2007.
“Stephen Glass: I Lied For Esteem” — 60 Minutes: Steve Kroft’s Exclusive Interview With Former Reporter
The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Roman Catholic archdiocese.
CITATION: Wilson, B. and D. Loving “Spotlight: Tips for Teachers.” Communication: Journalism Education Today, 40(3), spring 2007.
“I’m in ‘Spotlight’, but it’s not really about me. It’s about the power of journalism” in the Washington Post by Martin Baron, Feb. 24, 2016
Through a Lens Darkly
Bringing to light the hidden and unknown photos shot by both professional and vernacular African-American photographers
CITATION: Wilson, B. and H. Spanogle “Through a Lens Darkly: Tips for Teachers.” Communication: Journalism Education Today, 50(3), spring 2017.
The heartbeat of deadlines and investigations
Media have made headlines in movies since the 1920s and the 1930s. Twenty-first century filmmakers have already added superior accounts to the visual record. Stars continue to give noteworthy performances. By now, there are hundreds of titles, many enlightening, about the struggles and about the achievements of reporters, photographers, broadcasters and editors. Availability of titles varies, but searching the Internet produces helpful results and remarkable commentary that appeal to journalism aficionados, which include committed media advisers for today’s youth.
Journalism teachers find memorable lessons and inspiration. They may also find a few that provide useful teaching tools, but the Journalism Education Association does not make film endorsements.
The Big Clock — In a jealous rage, powerful publishing tycoon Earl Janouth kills his mistress and later sets about framing the figure he saw, who, unknown to him, is actually the man he is putting in charge of the investigation. What follows from this setup is an elaborate cat-and-mouse game, the key difference here being that the cat has no idea who the mouse is. 1948 drama. 95 minutes.
Blessed Event — Al Roberts writes a gossip column for the Daily Express. He will write about anyone and everyone as long as he gets the credit. He gets into a little difficulty with a hood named Goebel, who sends Frankie to talk to Roberts. But the columnist has the confession of Frankie on cylinders so Frankie becomes his own bodyguard and information line. When Roberts writes a story about Dorothy’s blessed event, he comes to regret destroying her life. But more importantly to Roberts and Frankie, her man may end “spilling the dirt” permanently. 1932 drama. 80 minutes.
Citizen Kane — One of the most influential films of all time was a retelling of William Randolph Hearst’s life in Orson Welles’ fascinating film. The visual style of Citizen Kane, one of the greatest character studies ever captured on film, looks stunningly fresh and inventive even today, and the unconventional narrative structure of the screenplay still seems daring. Welles’ portrayal of a character who gradually ages from 25 to old age is unexcelled, and the movie’s supporting cast is superb. A reporter is assigned the task of ferreting out the significance of “Rosebud,” his last utterance. 1941 biographical drama. 119 minutes
Control Room – A chronicle that provides a rare window into the international perception of the current Iraq War, courtesy of Al Jazeera, the Arab world’s most popular news outlet. Roundly criticized by Cabinet members and Pentagon officials for reporting with a pro-Iraqi bias, and strongly condemned for frequently airing civilian casualties as well as footage of American POWs, the station has revealed everything about the Iraq War that the Bush administration did not want the world to see. 2004 documentary. 84 minutes.
Deadline USA — Ed Hutcheson, tough editor of the New York Day, finds that the late owner’s heirs are selling the crusading paper to a strictly commercial rival. At first he sees impending unemployment as an opportunity to win back his estranged wife Nora. But when a reporter, pursuing a lead on racketeer Rienzi, is badly beaten, Hutcheson fires back with a full-fledged crusade. Hutcheson hopes Rienzi can be tied to a woman’s murder in the three issues before the end of the Day. 1952 crime drama. 87 minutes.
Good Night, and Good Luck. — In the early 1950s, the threat of Communism created an air of paranoia in the United States as Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy exploited those fears. However, CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow and his producer Fred W. Friendly decided to take a stand and challenge McCarthy and expose him for the fear monger he was. Though their actions took a great personal toll on both men, they stood by their convictions and helped to bring down one of the most controversial senators in American history. 2005 historical drama.Rated PG. 93 minutes.
Dying To Tell The Story — This documentary studies the motivations of journalists dedicated enough to risk their lives for a story. It follows narrator Amy Eldon on a personal journey to find meaning in the death of her older brother, 22-year-old Reuters photographer Dan Eldon. He was among a group of five journalists attacked by a mob during the Somali famine in 1993. He and three others were stoned to death. As she interviews other journalists and the sole surviving witness to Dan’s death, Eldon attains the peace she sought. 1998 war documentary. 95 minutes.
Flags of Our Fathers — In February 1945, one of the fiercest battles of the Pacific theater of World War II occurs on the tiny island of Iwo Jima. Early in the battle, an American flag is raised atop the high point, Mount Suribachi, and a photograph of the raising becomes an American cause célèbre. However, the accolades for heroism heaped upon the three flag raisers are at odds with their own personal realizations that thousands of real heroes lie dead on Iwo Jima. Each of the three must come to terms with the honors, exploitation and grief that they face simply for being in a photograph. 2006 war drama. Rated R. 132 minutes. Companion 2006 film, Letters from Iwo Jima, illustrates contrasting viewpoints.
A visually stunning film, the new release shows the power of journalism photography. However, the approach looks beyond the photographer and the unusual effort required. Instead, the film reveals the effect of journalism photography on the subjects, those who have been photographed. In this case, the photograph of Americans raising the flag on Iwo Jima, is one of the most famous pictures in the history of journalism photography and also in war photography.
In the Oct. 10, 2006 Vanity Fair review, critic Todd McCarthy explained the background: “On the fifth day of fighting, some Americans reach the summit where a great deal of the Japanese firepower is concentrated, and six Marines plant a small stars-and-stripes. Shortly after, a larger flag is sent up and, in an event only shown in the film considerably later, six different men — Bradley, Gagnon and Hayes among them — responding to a photographer’s half-joking question of, ‘OK, guys, who wants to be famous?’ put their muscle behind pushing up the new flag held in place by a heavy length of pipe.”
Though no faces were identifiable, the photo had a haunting effect on the subjects. The surviving three were returned to the mainland to spearhead a final war bonds drive. They were treated as unparalleled heroes everywhere and continually had to confront the image of the flag raising. In retrospect, it is easy to understand the unending influence of a powerful visual on the photographed. 2006 war drama. Rated R. 132 minutes.
Harrison’s Flowers — Aware of family demands, Pulitzer-winning photojournalist Harrison Lloyd wants to change jobs to something less stressful. In 1991, when he goes on one last assignment in war-torn Yugoslavia, word comes back that he apparently died in a building collapse. However, his wife Sarah, also a journalist for Newsweek, refuses to believe that he is dead and goes looking for him. She is helped immensely by photojournalists Eric Kyle and Marc Stevenson, whom she encounters there. Together, they are determined to make it through the chaotic landscape to Vukovar, which is not only the nexus of the war but where she believes Harrison is located. 2000 drama. Rated R. 121 minutes.
Salvador — A journalist, down on his luck in the U.S., drives to El Salvador to chronicle the events of the 1980 military dictatorship, including the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. The journalist forms an uneasy alliance both with guerillas, who want him to get pictures out to the U.S. press, and with the right-wing military, who want him to bring them photographs of the rebels. Meanwhile, he has to find a way to protect his Salvadorean girlfriend and to get her out of the country. 1986 drama. Rated R. 12 minutes.
Under Fire — Nicaragua 1979: Star photographer Russel Price covers the civil war against President Somoza. Facing the cruel fighting — people versus army — it is often hard for him to stay neutral. When the guerillas have him take a picture of the leader Rafael, believed to be dead, he gets drawn into the happenings. Together with his reporter friends Claire and Alex, he has to hide from the army. 1983 war drama. Rated R. 128 minutes.
The War Photographer — Documentary about war photographer James Nachtwey, one of the top war photographers. 2001 documentary. 96 minutes.
Welcome to Sarajevo — Journalist Flynn from U.S., Michael Henderson from UK and their teams meet at the beginning of the Bosnian war in Sarajevo. During their reports they find an orphanage run by devoted Mrs. Savic near the front line. Henderson gets so involved in kids’ problems that he decides to take Emira, one of the children, illegally back to England. He is assisted by American aid worker Nina. 1997 drama. Rated R. 103 minutes.
-30- — Managing editor Sam Gatlin (Jack Webb) arrives in the afternoon and departs early the next morning after he has assembled a morning newspaper for Los Angeles. During this implausibly active day in the life of a metropolitan newspaper, family arguments erupt and children are endangered. 1959 drama. 96 minutes.
Ace in the Hole — Charles Tatum, a down-on-his-luck reporter, takes a job with a small New Mexico newspaper. The job is pretty boring until he finds a man trapped in a mine. He jumps at the chance to make a name for himself by taking over and prolonging the rescue effort. By feeding stories to major newspapers, he creates a national media sensation and milks it for all it is worth. 1951 drama. 111 minutes.
Broadcast News — Basket-case network news producer Jane Craig falls for new reporter Tom Grunick, a pretty boy who represents the trend toward entertainment news she despises. Aaron Altman, a talented but plain correspondent, carries an unrequited torch for Craig. Sparks fly between the three as the network prepares for big changes, and both the news and Craig must decide between style and substance. 1987 comedy/drama. Rated R. 133 minutes.
Call Northside 777 — In 1932, a cop is killed and Frank Wiecek is sentenced to life. Eleven years later, a newspaper ad by Frank’s mother leads Chicago reporter P.J. O’Neal to look into the case. For some time, O’Neal continues to believe Wiecek guilty. But when the reporter starts to change his mind, he meets increased resistance from authorities unwilling to be proved wrong. 1948 film noir/drama. 111 minutes.
Capote — A dramatization of a literary account/process that redefines modern non-fiction, including journalism. In 1959, Truman Capote, a popular writer for The New Yorker, and his partner, novelist Harper Lee, travel to Holcomb, Kansas to research the horrific and senseless murder of a family of four. The project turns into his greatest work, In Cold Blood. The movie shows the work, from interviews to deep conflicts, behind the book that changed modern writing. 2005 biographical drama. Rated R. 114 minutes. In a powerful 2006 portrayal of Capote’s journey, Infamous (110 minutes) shows how the writer, who moved in the circles of Manhattan’s sophisticated café society, turns darker as he becomes increasingly consumed by a murder case and by a close relationship with the convicted murderers.
The Front Page — Hildy Johnson is the top reporter on a Chicago newspaper during the 1920s. Tired of the whole game, he is determined to quit his job to get married. His scheming editor, Walter Burns, has other plans though. It’s the day before guilty (but insane) murderer Earl Williams is due to go to the gallows so Burns tempts Johnson to stay and write the story. 1974 comedy/drama.Rated PG. 105 minutes. A redo of the original 1931 version. Another remake is Switching Channels, a 1988 comedy (105 minutes) that deals with a cable news network producer controlling his best reporter.
His Girl Friday — Walter Burns, editor of a major Chicago newspaper, is about to lose his ace reporter and former wife, Hildy Johnson, to insurance salesman Bruce Baldwin but not without a fight. The crafty editor uses every trick in his fedora to get Hildy to write one last big story about murderer Earl Williams and the inept Sheriff Hartwell. The comedy snowballs as William’s friend, Molly Malloy, the crooked Mayor and Bruce’s mother all get tied up in Walter’s web. 1940 comedy/drama. Rated G. 92 minutes.
I Love Trouble — Peter Brackett and Sabrina Peterson are two competing Chicago newspaper reporters who join forces to unravel the mystery behind a train derailment. 1994 action romance. Rated PG. 123 minutes.
The Insider — The true story of Jeffrey Wigand, a former tobacco executive, who decided to appear on the CBS-TV News show “60 Minutes.” As a matter of conscience, partially prodded by producer Lowell Bergman, Wigand revealed that the tobacco industry not only was aware that cigarettes are addictive and harmful but also deliberately worked on increasing that addictiveness. Unfortunately, both protagonists of this story learn the hard way that simply telling the truth is not enough as they struggle against both Big Tobacco’s attempts to silence them and the CBS TV Network’s own preference of putting money as a higher priority over the truth. 1999 drama. Rated R. 157 minutes.
The Killing Fields — Sydney Schanberg is a New York Times journalist covering the civil war in Cambodia. Together with local representative Dith Pran, they cover some of the tragedy and madness of the war. When the American forces leave, Dith Pran sends his family with them but stays behind himself to help Schanberg cover the event. As an American, Schanberg will not have any trouble leaving the country, but the situation is different for Pran, a local. 1984 drama. Rated R. 141 minutes.
Up Close & Personal — Sally Atwater, a young woman who wants to become a star in the news and television industry, sends out a tape to a lot of stations, but only one responds. She first becomes a secretary, and Warren Justice later makes her a weather person and then finally a real news person. 1996 drama/romance. Rated PG-13. 124 minutes.
The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords — Chronicles growth and influence of the Black Press up through the mid-60s. http://www.pbs.org/blackpress/ 1999 documentary. 86 minutes.
China Syndrome — While doing a series of reports on alternative energy sources, an opportunistic reporter Kimberly Wells witnesses an accident at a nuclear power plant. Wells is determined to publicize the incident but soon finds herself entangled in a sinister conspiracy to keep the full impact of the incident a secret. 1983 drama. Rated PG. 131 minutes.
Network — Howard Beale, an aging television anchorman for UBS, receives his two weeks notice because his ratings have been steadily deteriorating. He reacts by sensationally announcing on live television his intention to commit suicide on air. In doing so, Beale becomes a major TV icon and one of the most valuable assets to the Communications Corporation of America (CCA), the company that is gradually taking control of UBS. “The mad prophet of the air-waves” appears live on television every weekday evening to tell the real truth to the people of America when a serious problem develops. 1976 drama. Rated R. 121 minutes.
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism — Documentary on reported conservative bias of the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News Channel (FNC), which promotes itself as “Fair and Balanced.” Material includes interviews with former FNC employees and the inter-office memos they provided. 2004 documentary. 75 minutes.
S1m0ne — The career of a disillusioned producer, who is desperate for a hit, is endangered when his star walks off the film set. Forced to think fast, the producer decides to digitally create first totally believable synthetic actress “Simone” to sub for the star. The “actress” becomes an overnight sensation, with a major singing career as well, and everyone thinks she’s a real person. However, as Simone’s fame skyrockets, the producer cannot bear to admit his fraud to himself or to the world. 2002 comedy/drama. Rated PG-13. 117 minutes.
Silkwood — A New York Times reporter’s work provides the basis for retelling the story of Karen Silkwood, the Oklahoma nuclear-plant worker who blew the whistle on dangerous practices at the Kerr-McGee plant and who died under circumstances that are still under debate. 1983 drama. Rated R. 131 minutes.
Sweet Smell of Success — J.J. Hunsecker, the most powerful newspaper columnist in New York, is determined to prevent his sister from marrying Steve Dallas, a jazz musician. He therefore covertly employs Sidney Falco, a sleazy and unscrupulous press agent, to break up the affair by any means possible. Rated PG. 1957 drama/film noir. 96 minutes.