Last night I saw "Shattered Glass," about the fall of Stephen Glass, the New Republic reporter who made up stories right and left and finally got fired after a Forbes reporter figured out that his stories were a sham.
That movie struck me with the fear of God. Because I totally related to the pressures that led Glass to do what he did. Who among us hasn't considered embellishing a quote, working on an assumption, or even making up a source? A writer has a lot of power, and it takes huge amounts of integrity not to abuse it. So far I've resisted the temptation, as I believe most journalists do, but the devil likes to whisper in one's ear about how much more colorful a story would be if only a quotation were written out of context, or how much quicker the story can be filed if the facts are not verified . . . . This truly is not a job for the weak.
The vision I have of this is of a dark abyss. As a journalist, I have, out of curiosity, walked to the edge and peered over to see how deep it goes. The difference between most reporters and Stephen Glass is that instead of walking away from the edge and doing real work, he jumped over.
This movie showed us how deep and dark that abyss really is. It was painful to watch his descent.
Poor Stephen. He really needed UYO.