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2015’s Other Attack on Journalism

Yes, one of the year’s Oscar contenders offers a robust defense of shoe leather reporting. “Spotlight” reveals the true story behind The Boston Globe exposing corruption in the Catholic Church.

It’s a tribute to a fading era, when newspapers still carried both clout and economic heft. It also reminds audiences how tenacious journalists can be given a particular target.

Two other recent films, both vying for awards season glory, leave a darker, more permanent stain on the profession.

Truth Official Trailer #1 (2015) - Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford Drama HD
“Truth” ostensibly a defense of CBS journalists digging into President George W. Bush’s military records, works better at exposing how biased journalists ply their trade. It’s embarrassing to watch the fictional versions of Dan Rather and chums prove their bogus attack on a sitting president was fair, balanced and, gasp, true.

The film reveals the arrogance of too many journalists as well as their unwillingness to consider reasonable critiques.

Now comes “Room,” an indie darling with serious Oscar potential for star Brie Larson. The film has nothing to do with journalism – on the surface.

Room Official Trailer #1 (2015) Brie Larson Drama Movie HD
Larson stars as a mother trapped in a single room for years along with her young son. The trailer shows the story moving beyond said “Room,” focusing on their lives outside of captivity.

That’s where the ugly side of journalism appears. The family’s home is surrounded by desperate reporters hoping for a quote or an image they can share with their audience. That’s not the worst element of “Room’s” critique.

That comes later, when a veteran journalist (Wendy Crewson) finally lands an interview with the still-traumatized mother. What follows is downright disgusting, the kind of gotcha journalism gussied up as truth telling.

“Spotlight” stands the best chance at Oscar glory. It has a glittering cast (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber) and a ripped from the headlines yarn. The cumulative effect of both “Truth” and “Room,” though, will likely have a longer-lasting impact on viewers.

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