Journalist’s lies hit the silver screen

The fantasy world of former journalist Stephen Glass has been made into a new film to be released in the US this month.

Stephen Glass  (L) and Jayson Blair both toyed with the truth
Stephen Glass (L) and Jayson Blair both toyed with the truth

Shattered Glass is a fictionalised version of the 25-year-old’s final days at the magazine, the New Republic, as he rushes to cover his trail while his editor and a journalist at a rival publication, Forbes, race to expose him.

Glass’s wry and witty articles had won him admiration, but this soon turned to disdain when he was exposed in 1998.

Throughout the movie, Glass apologises for minor slights and his own shortcomings to whoever will listen. He is portrayed as extremely needy but, at the same time, a bold liar who creates supporting notes and at least one website to back his claims.

Glass, played by Hayden Christensen, was a gifted storyteller who, in addition to writing prominent articles for The New Republic, penned pieces for Rolling Stone magazine and other publications.

He created colourful characters to populate high society’s fringes and made up anonymous sources to attack public figures, including Vernon Jordan, a confidant of former president Bill Clinton, who became embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Glass’s deceptions came before those of another journalist, Jayson Blair of the New York Times, whose web of deceit and
plagiarism led earlier this year to a serious shake-up at the

The church story

In Peddling Poppy (June 1997), Glass wrote that there was
a First Church of George Herbert Walker Christ, which worshipped former president George Bush Snr and that a group called the Committee for the Former President’s Integrity was dedicated to burnishing his image.

“It is a tale of embarrassing failure by a bunch of editors”

Charles Lane,
editor, The New Republic

Charles Lane was the editor who fired Glass after a Forbes journalist exposed his decpetion when he tried to match a Glass story and could not find any of the sources.

“It is a tale of embarrassing failure by a bunch of editors and a bunch of colleagues and a bunch of readers too,” Lane says. “You look at [Glass’s stories] and ask: ‘How could anybody have swallowed this?'”

Glass reaction

Glass has seen the film, claiming that it “got very many things right”. He says he looked at the floor during some scenes, adding that: “It was like a guided tour of the most painful parts of my life.

“It was like a guided tour of the most painful parts of my life”

Stephen Glass

“But it can’t capture what it felt like for me.” For that, he recommends his own fictionalised account of the process, The Fabulist, a novel that was published this summer shortly
after Blair was exposed for his made-up stories.

Lane says he received two letters of apology from Glass but that The Fabulist is unfair and unflattering to many at the New Republic and is “very much at odds with his statements that he is filled with remorse”.

But Glass would have it otherwise. He says he wants people to know that he is very sorry for his fabrications and that he hopes the American public will not judge journalism by what he and Blair have done. He thinks that would be wrong.

Source: Reuters

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