Journalism film series entertains, educates

Republished from The Maneater

When graduate student Davis Dunavin took Betty Winfield’s history of mass media class last year, he discovered a shared interest with his professor.

“Both Betty and I are big film buffs,” he said. “We always have been.”

Their love of movies was galvanized when they discussed films dealing with journalism.

They both decided there should be a class about the portrayal of journalism in film, and the idea for “Film Images of Journalism in American Culture” was conceived.

“It’s an interesting entry point into journalism and a way to help citizens or students of journalism understand what journalism is all about,” J School Dean Dean Mills said.

The series will serve as a way of studying the history of American journalism through a new medium.

“This film series will give people an excellent microcosm of how the profession of journalism has changed in the past 100 years,” Dunavin said.

The image of reporters and how they operate is sometimes caricatured by the movie industry, Mills said.

“The typical television or movie stereotype of journalists is those rude people gathering around some poor victim and shouting rude questions at them,” Mills said. “I think it gives citizens an inaccurate view of what journalism really is about.”

However, films occasionally get it right, Mills said. “All the President’s Men” is a classic film — an accurate depiction of the Watergate scandal and the journalism done by Woodward and Bernstein.

“It helps give contextual understanding of how journalists operate in some cases, and in other cases gives a wildly inaccurate cartoon of what journalism is all about,” Mills said.

The series is offered as a one-hour Journalism course, but all screenings are open to the public. Dunavin hopes the community takes advantage of the series and gets involved.

“Like it or not, Columbia is a journalism town,” Dunavin said. “It has put this town on the map. This film series gives people in the community a chance to interact with the J School in a fun way, see some great movies and learn about how journalism is depicted — more than that, just to learn about what journalists do.”

The film series is a way for the public to be entertained and educated, Winfield said.

“(The movies) are entertainment, but they’re about journalism and the discussion is there,” she said. “The public can certainly enjoy this and maybe learn something about journalism.”

By using a fictitious medium — none of the films are documentaries — the series is able to offer deeper insight into journalism’s history.

“Our culture is more than just a documentary,” Winfield said. “Our culture is an interpretation of what’s happening. And those interpretations are by music and by art and by literature narrative and by film.”

The films, which were chosen based on their Academy Award nominations, as well as journalistic content, will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursdays in Fisher Auditorium. Following each screening, speakers will lead discussions over the film.



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