Shattered Glass

| November 11, 2003

The only question I have for the characters in Shattered Glass is a big one: At The New Republic, a magazine that prided itself on truth, justice, and the American Way; a publication that looked down on the New York Times as being less than perfect journalistically; how was it possible that a writer lied in 27 out of 41 articles produced for the magazine without it being caught? And when it was caught, why was it by a competitor?
That Shattered Glass is based on a true story is what saves me from slamming what would be an obvious impossibility. But yet it happened so I must just be amazed. And the telling of the story is a great tale worth seeing.
Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen) was a new wunderkind reporter for The New Republic. He came up with great sources on great pieces that tweaked both major political parties and other organizations that needed to have the light of day shown upon them. But when he runs an article on a computer hacker that attacks a nonexistent software company, the emperor’s new clothes are shown to be invisible by an online magazine (like this one – only better funded). The house of cards that he has built begins to crumble, one lucky seven at a time until he is forced to admit that whole article is a sham.
In my other life outside writing for this e-zine, I own a promotional products company that does a lot of screen printing. Recently I fired a screen printer because every other word that come out of her mouth was a lie. And the other words were to cover up those lies. So as I sat in Shattered Glass and listened to reporter Stephen Glass dance around his lies, I felt the same anger bubbling just below the surface. That is how I knew that Hayden Christensen (Life as a House, Star Wars Episode II) did a good job of acting. He was the printer who could never tell the truth. He was captivatingly irritating.
His editors are equally good. Peter Sarsgaard (Empire, K-19) is Chuck Lane, a man, at first, we are supposed to hate for his obnoxious manner. First time director Billy Ray (after writing 7 screenplays) did a great job of setting us up because when we see Sarsgaard develop into a fine editor and defender of the magazine, he absolutely shines. Likewise Hank Azaria (The Birdcage, Mad About You) is incredible as editor Michael Kelly.
Shattered Glass should be a must see by every student studying journalism today. When I was in college, we had two unofficial sayings at the paper: “The Daily Aztec, We Never Sleep” and “The Daily Aztec: We Get It Right, Almost All The Time.” While these were both said in jest, they both serve to underlay facts that are still true today: Journalists must be ever vigilant. And journalists must always get it right because the consequences are far too great when they blow it.
Don’t blow it – go see Shattered Glass.

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