Saturday, October 29, 2005

What a Journalist Should Be

I've just watched George Clooney's marvelous new film, "Good Night and Good Luck" and I cannot commend his courage and skill highly enough. The movie tells the story of newsman Edward R. Murrow's expose of McCarthyism at its peak in the early 50's. It is a wonderful piece of drama - beautifully photographed, note-perfect performances, and of course so deliberately relevant to our own times. It is not often that a movie is this educational and yet entertaining at the same time. The film offers a trenchant critique of the declining state of journalism which was already evident to Murrow in 1958. Trivializing, superficial, insulating, cosmetically obsessed with balance but lacking all substance, these are a few of the not so subtle characterizations of the field. In its place the movie hopefully lifts up another, entirely different philosophy of journalism: moralistic, truth-seeking and truth-telling, a friend of justice, holding itself to the highest ethical standards, educating, courageous, principled, full of conviction. Murrow says, in effect, that journalism is and ought to be a public service which serves the common good, which preserves democracy by guaranteeing the free and accurate flow of information, which ceaselessly exposes corruption and lies, which facilitates the democratic union of the government and the governed by protecting both from each other. My favorite line in the movie is when Murrow says, "We are not descended from fearful men." I felt like standing up and cheering when I heard that line. Murrow is right. This country wasn't founded on timidity. It was founded by complex individuals who made difficult decisions based on the best knowledge that they had, who made the most out of the humanity they had to offer, who willingly made sacrifices, took risks, and accepted challenges. That's what Murrow represented in this film. It's what Murrow believed a journalist should be.


dbackdad said...

Thanks for the great review. This was one of the movies that I wanted to see this weekend. Based on your review, I'm definitely going to go see it now.

If you ever get the chance, check out Tim Robbins' Cradle Will Rock. It didn't get a lot of play when it came out in 1999, but I think it's one of Robbins' best. It goes into the true story of a leftist musical drama in the 30's and the how they tried to stop it.

Isabella di Pesto said...

Saw this film a month ago, and it's still with me.