Shattered Glass and Checking the Facts

Not too long ago, our editorial team gathered together — beers, Junior Mints, and popcorn in hand — for a viewing of the 2003 movie “Shattered Glass.”

In the movie, which is a true story, Hayden Christensen stars as Stephen Glass, a staff writer for The New Republic, and a freelance feature writer for Rolling Stone, Harper’s Bazaar and George, among others. By the mid-90s, Glass was one of the most sought-after journalists in Washington D.C., but his creative storytelling — and betrayal of the facts (i.e., making up stories, faking sources, and doctoring quotes) — ultimately killed his career.

The movie struck a chord with our editors, a team of news junkies whose job it is to ensure our client’s content is trustworthy, honest, and factually correct.

Here’s what they had to say:

“Glass got away with spinning an elaborate web of deception by effectively using a mix of charisma, office dynamics, sympathetic co-workers, and general misdirection to divert attention from his misdeeds. His actions underscore the importance of strong, independent fact-checking in journalism.” — Phil Malkinson, Senior Managing Editor

“As a young journalist/writer, I kept noticing how people who stuck up for Glass used his age as an excuse (whether it was because young=dumb or they didn’t want to ruin his career when it was just starting), but I think true teamwork doesn’t involve making excuses for someone. And I think letting something like that slide ruins everyone’s credibility, and if he actually cared about his team and not just himself, he wouldn’t have concocted stories to begin with.” — Megan Kramer, Editorial Associate

“‘Shattered Glass’ served as a great reminder as to how important fact-checking is — even though it sometimes can be a mundane and tedious process.” — Kathleen Hagan, Managing Editor

“It’s amazing to think about how much the internet and computers have transformed journalism in less than 20 years. It seems ‘digital’ journalism and journalists weren’t viewed as credible or at the same level as print in 1998 — there was a big divide — but now they’re one and the same.” — Brittany Magee, Editorial Associate

“Fact-checking was so much more difficult twenty years ago than it is today. Google changed everything.” — Andrew Conner, Managing Editor

“‘Shattered Glass’ reminded me that personal and professional integrity are the foundations for success.” — Paula Rosenberg Frey, SVP, Client Services

“Charm apparently can go a long way. What’s amazing is that Glass got away with what he did at a publication with such a rigorous fact-checking protocol. And the staff worked so closely together. But his personality was so likable that people were willing to overlook the veracity of his stories.” — Liza Berger, Managing Editor

“If something sounds — or reads — too good to be true, it probably is.” — Rene Ryan, Senior Director of Content Strategy