Journalism in Pop Culture Podcast: ‘Shattered Glass’

“Shattered Glass” is undoubtedly considered by most in the business as the best or at least one of the best journalism movies of the new millennium.

As anyone who has worked for even a millisecond in the field or who is currently teaching journalism knows, the 2003 film based on a true story stars Hayden Christensen – who of course went on to play a young Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” prequels. It’s a fitting tie-in given his role in “Shattered Glass” as the fallen — and, arguably, evil — title character: Stephen Glass.


In the late 1990s, Glass — in the film and in real life — was a reporter and associate editor at the respected Washington D.C. news magazine The New Republic. Through his work at TNR and via a ton of side freelancing for A-list outlets, Glass had already carved out a name for himself near the top of the journalism totem pole in only his mid-twenties – in part through his reputation for grabbing unique, insider and sensational stories, sources and quotes.

Many of them, alas, were later proven to be greatly exaggerated or wholly fabricated. The New Republic staff’s journey toward discovering and accepting that fact — and the efforts of an online news start-up to expose his journalistic faux pas — form the heart of the aptly-named “Shattered Glass.

It is one of the most common films shown in journalism classes and during orientation week in student newsrooms nationwide in part because it cuts such a wide educational swath. It’s embedded with obvious elements of journalism ethics, reporting and editing 101, magazine journalism and even a brief historical snippet of digital journalism’s early days.

I love the film because its essence screams accuracy when it comes to the rhythms and routines of journalism — the look and feel of a newsroom; the running of an editorial meeting; informal staff interactions that happen in and out of work; and even how reporting is carried out (or of course in this case fabricated).

It is incredibly easy to view the film as just an introduction to a basic lesson on Bad Journalists 101, placing Stephen Glass alongside Janet Cooke, Jayson Blair and others featured in the unofficial Journalism Hall of Shame. And there is definitely a place for that lesson.

There is ABSOLUTELY a ton more happening on screen, however, that is also worth exploring. In that spirit, I’ve put together a fun podcast breakdown of some of the most significant and interesting journalism issues on full display or buried just beneath the surface of “Shattered Glass.” It is aimed at being utilized as a class discussion starter, a behind-the-scenes teaching and advising guide or a thoughtful accompaniment on your next road trip, workout or walk around campus.

Below is a quick-hit guide to the main themes addressed in the podcast. Clicking on the headers will take you directly to their starting spots in the recording. Enjoy.

1. ‘Shattered Glass’ 101: Plot Summary & Lasting Significance

2. The Benefits, Downsides & Debate Over Undercover Journalism

3. The Gaping Hole in Most Outlets’ Editing Routines & the Huge Challenge of Handling an Unethical Staffer

4. How the Editors Overseeing Stephen Glass Screwed Up Big Time

5. The Role Photography Played in the Stephen Glass Scandal

6. The Instant Fame Factor: The Opportunities & Challenges of Becoming a Media Star While Still Finding Your Journalistic Identity

7. Unethical Fallout 411: When a Newsroom Scandal Breaks, What’s the Next Step, Internally & in the Public Spotlight?

8. The ‘Moral Fitness’ Question: Do Unethical Journalists (Students or Professionals) Deserve a Second Chance?


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