State of Play, a political thriller starring Russell Crowe has a clear message: internet reporting sucks.
If that concept doesn’t get you excited to see the latest Russell Crowe star vehicle, then you’re probably better off watching a more entertaining movie for intellectually minded audiences like District 9.
The performances are fine in State of Play and for the most part the movie is also entertaining. But the plot really does get less interesting at about its midpoint. More importantly, is the movie memorable in any way? Probably not.
Here’s a summary of the plot:
A political aide to an upcoming U.S. senator (Ben Affleck) is mysteriously killed immediately prior to her boss holding a major Congressional hearing on the influence of several defense contractors reaping huge profits from American wars abroad (read: Blackwater). Got that? Several other murders occur around the same time that are linked to the aide’s death. Russell Crowe plays a seasoned reporter at a failing newspaper who is tasked with trying to solve the mystery of why these people were killed. The catch: he’s the senator’s estranged best friend.
If there’s an undercurrent to this plot though, it is that newspaper gumshoe-style, pounding-the-pavement journalism has more integrity, value, and worth than internet journalism. It’s interesting though that the movie seems to have little problem with Russell Crowe ‘s journalist repeatedly breaking the law to get to these tough truths– these transgressions are just viewed as clever investigative techniques or illustrative of our hero’s tenacious drive rather than as posing some kind of a philosophical contradiction.
On the other hand we have Rachel McAdam’s character, an internet journalist working for the paper who is the new hotshot bringing in money on a daily basis. The movie implies that her information is inaccurate from time to time, and that her brand of journalism is a tarnish on the newspaper’s reputation. Actually, it’s not even implied. I think it’s just directly said.
But rather than there being any actual battle between McAdams and Crowe’s characters to get the scoop on the murders, McAdams very quickly is lodged tight beneath Crowe’s guiding wing, learning the ropes of how to do “real” reporting. She is even referred to as a “cub” by the newspaper’s editor. Her character becomes timid and for the most part recedes from the story.
So what do I think about this message? Maybe there’s some merit to the argument that as online news sources grow on the internet that the overall quality of reporting and journalism goes down. But in my honest opinion, in the past when the internet did not exist there was just as much bad journalism as there was good journalism.
What quality journalism really comes down to is paying jobs. Now that we have so many sources of news on the internet, it has diluted the profits for media companies. This means that there is less money to hire full-time journalists. No one has figured out very well yet how to make a good amount of money from internet news, and until they do, there will be less jobs for reporters.
I guess what I am saying is that I don’t think the assumption of the movie is fair. I think that internet reporting can be just as good as it has been at traditional news sources in the past– it might take a little more time before we get there though.