Shattered Glass (2003)
The story of a young journalist who fell from grace when it was discovered he fabricated over half of his articles from the publication The New Republic magazine.
This film tells the true story of fraudulent Washington, D.C. journalist Stephen Glass (Christensen), who rose to meteoric heights as a young writer in his 20s, becoming a staff writer at "The New Republic" for three years (1995-1998), where 27 of his 41 published stories were either partially or completely made up. Looking for a short cut to fame, Glass concocted sources, quotes and even entire stories, but his deception did not go unnoticed forever, and eventually, his world came crumbling down...
- It tells the story of Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), who was the youngest journalist at the New Republic. This newspaper prides itself to have been read by everybody in the political field in Washington, and to be the only one in the American president's plane. Little by little, we see how things work in the editorial room: Stephen's direct boss and editor is Charles "Chuck" Lane (Peter Sarsgaard), who is constantly insisting on having every single detail checked through direct notes. The first time Stephen gets in trouble in the film it's on an article about a Republican young people convention, where he alleged they got drunk and called some prostitutes. Stephen gets into trouble because the hotel manager complains that hotel rooms did not have any drink or food fridges in them, all the opposite of what Stephen had said in his article. Chuck talks with Stephen about that. Stephen comes back some minutes later admitting he has made a mistake: he saw so many spirits bottles thrown out of the place, that he took it for granted that they came from a room saloon. Stephen says he's sorry, and that if Chuck wants his resignation, he'll sign it right away. However, Chuck is not about to do anything of that sort, and the audience is left feeling that it was too much of a ruckus over the possible existence of a portable fridge or not.
Stephen's girlfriend is Caitlin Avey (Chloë Sevigny), a fellow journalist at the newspaper. She is worried because Stephen has had much success lately, she's even a bit jealous. Stephen is freelancing and writing stories for other magazines, like Rolling Stones, because his news stories have always got an edge to them: he investigates, finds out the truth and talks about humourous situations and peculiar characters. Also, to Caitlin's dismay, he's even going to be busier, as he is about to start to study law, which he considers to be more prestigious. In the small row they have over this matter, Stephen blames his parents, who follow the peer pressure of their friends and think that a lawyer is the most prestigius job in the world.
One of his most successful stories is about how hardware and software companies try to stop hackers from damaging their products. In a computer-geek convention, Stephen tells how a computer company hired and paid one million dollars to a hacker so that he would stop breaking their security system. That hacker signed a contract right there, and then boasted about it in front of everybody. While Stephen is telling this story at the meeting room, all journalists and editors sitting together deciding the new news stories, he jumps on the meeting table and shouts "show me the money, show me the money" with a cocky attitude. Everybody knows this is the best news story for years, and they all wonder "where he gets these characters from". Stephen's news story is so appealing: the attitude, the streetwise teenagers who make the best out of it and beat computer tycoons to their money, etc... In a later scene, Caitlin is trying to copy Stephen's sense of humour, but Chuck must tell her to come back to what she does best: glossing figures, explaining in plain words economic concepts and situations, and being serious and formal at all times.
In the Forbes internet magazine, Adam Penenberg (Steve Zahn) is told off by his boss. Adam is supposed to be responsible for all the high-tech content of the subscription magazine; he didn't even get a hit of the news story everybody is talking about, that about about the million-dollar contract to the hacker. Adam calls Chuck asking for more details about the story, as he would like to go on investigating it. Stephen reads his notes and gives him some further details.
Adam starts investigating, but soon he finds out things don't add up. He calls Chuck and Stephen once again, asking where the latter had got wind of the story. Stephen fabricates the ghost-company's website, but he doesn't realise that he put it in a net section which could only be seen by AOL subscribers. He didn't think or didn't have time of fabricating a whole fake website domain. Stephen admits that he may have made a mistake over some minor details on the story, but he insists on the truth of the main article. This time, Chuck starts to get the hint that something fishy is going on. Although he doesn't dismiss Stephen yet, this time the journalist is not going to find it so easy to move on.
Caitling supports Stephen through and through. As many more untruthful details spring to view, and Adam won't let things be, Chuck comes to the point when he insists on being taken to the location where that computer-geek convention took place right away. Stephen feels unsure, and tries to talk his way out of it, but this time to no avail. Chuck comes to realise that there are many problems with Stephen's story: the hotel where it was celebrated does not know anything about a convention of that kind, the actual room where it was supposed to have taken place is not big enough to accommodate the huge number of people Stephen says he himself saw, etc... More and more details appear missing, and the teenager who supposedly earned that million dollars is nowhere to be seen.
The pressure increases, especially on Chuck. There comes a moment when Chuck faces a wall display with The New Republic's old numbers, and he starts pulling them out, re-reading Stephen's editorial contributions once again, this time with a view to finding strange details, unlikely events, non-existent names of people and companies, dates which don't hold up, etc. Caitlin talks to Chuck. She is really upset when Stephen gets fired, and she is disappointed because Chuck and higher levels of management are not standing by Stephen. Chuck talks to her, saying that everybody believed what Stephen said because they all liked him, and that she should use her journalistic instinct to find out whether Stephen had been lying or not.
This makes Caitlin think, and she admits that Chuck is right: they all had been fooled by Stephen's charm and his news bombshells. The New Republic will write an editorial retracting almost half of Stephen Glass' news stories, and admitting to some more details in some more articles which cannot be put to the test concerning their veracity.
The last captions of the film say what happened to the people behind this story:
- Caitlin kept on writing for the New Republic
- Stephen did not want to comment on the film, and he dedicated full time to the study of law at university.
- Adam Penenberg's story made it to the headlines itself, and it became recorded as the first real breakthrough for internet newspapers.
>> written by KrystelClaire