All The President’s Men -Ethics in Journalism-

26 Oct

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All The President’s Men” (1976) was directed by Alan J. Pakula, staring Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Redford. This film was based on a true story, the Watergate scandal in the 1970s.  I watched it in the seminar of my Practices and Ethics class . We have discussed what is journalism and the ethics are held by journalists.

Reporters Woodward and Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon’s resignation.” IMDb

What mostly got my attention was that the way one of the protagonists, Carl (Dustin Hoffman),  tried to investigate this incident. There are a few points that made me uncomfortable while watching the movie. These all can be related to the ethic of journalism.

What was remarkable is Carl’s interview style. It seems like he was approaching people nicely (particularly when he had an interview with a woman he used his “cute” smile),

but he sounded pushy somehow and I did not like the way he said “oh this is just for backing up my memory later on” as he   was taking out his notepad and a pen from his pocket. I understand that he was trying to gather all the hidden information and truth, which would be the greatest “breaking news” of all time, yet forcing or manipulating people to reveal an issue should be considered as an unethical behavior unless those people preciously agreed to talk about it or do not feel uncomfortable with reporters’ approaches.

It is reporters’ responsible to gather true information and make them visible for the audience, or the public. Yet, it seems the border between what the reporters do and what the police or the government does is vague, because the news reporters sometimes become the ones who find the clue for an unsolved affair.

However, there was one thing that impressed me. To assure that the information is all correct and realiable, this might be the primary job of the media, but I did not think that, that thing would be an issue until then. This is because as the text book The Element of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel says one of the principle sources of pressures that the journalists face is the temptation to publish immediately. Since I was watching the process of the investigation which had shown where the all sources came from, I was aware of who was doing what, but I can now see that it was reasonable for the executive editor to order the reporters to see if the sources were trustworthy or not.

In real life the audience had no idea how the reporters and the newspaper gets the information and it could be only a tiny part of an event. After watching this movie, it made me think it probably is a good idea to get to know who writes/reports the news and find out his/her background. This is because each one of them has a different viewpoint on politics, finance, history, or any kind of category, so it would be easier for me to take the news and critique.

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