Investigative journalism just isn’t what it used to be. Remember All the President’s Men? Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post journalists, brought down an Administration through their relentless reporting to get the facts. Never did we hear Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee (played in the movie by Jason Robards) push the duo for sensational headlines, not in the name of accuracy, but in the name of corporate profits.
How times have changed. With newspapers now fighting for their lives, thanks to the Internet, publishers now want news that sells, no matter if the story is accurate. In the new political thriller, State of Play, Washington Globe Editor Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren) has one goal: to appease the new corporate owners and show she can still sell papers. Who cares if the facts aren’t right? What matters is which paper hits the newsstand first and sells the most copies. If the information is wrong, a few reputations may be damaged, but that’s why papers run corrections, right?
A debate has been raging in the print media and online about the future of investigative journalism. Never has it been more important for the media to dig deep and bring the information before the pubic. Yet as corporate budgets are slashed, fewer resources are allocated for the kind of intelligent reporting that educates and informs.
In State of Play, Russell Crowe plays Cal McAffrey, the old-fashioned kind of newspaper reporter who still carries a small notebook, has sources, and isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers. If McAffrey represents what journalism once was, Rachel McAdams, as Della Frye, embodies the future, an Internet blog that is heavy on superficial gossip, light on details and real facts. As a younger person raised in the computer age, Frye is wary of McAffrey’s methods. Yet as the two begin to work together, she appreciates his working style and begins to understand that some answers cannot be found on Google. Sometimes to uncover a conspiracy, you have to resort to old-time reporting. Whether the final product ends up in newsprint or onscreen is beside the point. What does matter is that the ideals that created a free press endure.