"Truth": A terrible, terrible movie about journalism

It’s a decidedly tricky balancing act to trumpet the historic importance of a news story while simultaneously casting doubt on its accuracy. Moreover, the Wiki post leaves out many crucial elements portrayed in the film (which is itself, as already noted, supremely one-sided). For example: While “right-wing bloggers” first questioned the documents, the story did not become real news until their concerns were subsequently investigated by ABC, The Washington Post, and pretty much every other mainstream outlet in the business—including CBS News itself. The many questions (remember: those things we’re supposed to ask) regarding the documents’ authenticity were not limited, as the Wiki post implies, to font-related matters. Oh, and the source who turned them over subsequently admitted on air that he’d lied initially about their provenance, offering instead a bizarre cloak-and-dagger scenario involving secretive contacts and original copies burned to destroy “DNA evidence.”

What is striking about the film is the degree to which it lauds Mapes and her colleagues (played by Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss, and Dennis Quaid) most emphatically precisely when they are displaying their worst journalistic judgment. In the many conflicts between this crew and their CBS supervisors (Bruce Greenwood, David Lyons, Rachel Blake) over whether they did due diligence or at what point a correction might be appropriate, Truth clearly intends that we side with the former, despite the fact that the latter consistently offer by far the stronger case. This is perhaps never clearer than when Lyons’s character cuts down Grace’s with a perfect slice of Occam’s Razor: “It’s not that you guys fucked up a story. No, it’s a conspiracy.”

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