by Dan Webster and Bonnie Anderson
Telling the truth to the public has long been a driving force for journalists. This film boldly reminds us that truth-telling is a key ingredient in journalism and, if facts aren’t checked carefully, and if the sources of facts are questionable truth-tellers themselves can suffer dire consequences.
‘Truth’ hosts box office names that any studio would die for. Robert Redford plays Dan Rather, the former CBS network news anchor. Cate Blanchett is Mary Mapes, a CBS News producer, well-known for her ground-breaking production of “60 Minutes II” and other difficult journalistic accomplishments. She was known as a producer who would take on the hard topics and dig deep for the truth. The film is in part about the events that led to the demise of Dan Rather and Mary Mapes, and cast a shadow over CBS.
The story asks this question and shows how Mapes documented it and Rather reported it: Did George W. Bush use family connections to avoid serving in Vietnam? Was his service in the Texas Air National Guard fabricated? These questions were being asked by Mapes as the 2004 Presidential election was ramping up and Bush was running for a second term against John Kerry.
Embellished by Hollywood, the film pokes at the steps that George W. Bush, with the backing of family connections, took to avoid the Vietnam War and, allegedly misrepresented his service in the Texas Air National Guard.
‘Truth’ does indict an industry that was originally charged with providing a public service for the privilege of using public airwaves and having access to millions of people. The film provides an example of how corporate ownership of broadcast properties has turned channels of public service into profit centers and commodities to be traded.
Merriam-Webster has long defined truth as “the real facts about something, the state of being the case.” The film is a testimony about the elusive nature of truth itself, and it reminds us of the importance of the very act of truth seeking. Additionally, once the truth is found it often takes courage to speak the truth when the odds are against us to do so. Truth and courage go hand in hand.
This film is timely to say the least. America is ramping up for another presidential election. The film reminds us that, as we go into an election that will produce outcomes of significant importance to our country, we need to pay attention, to ask questions, and to check our facts. We need to be involved and to not take media bytes as Gospel truth.
God acts in our lives everyday in many, many ways. Perhaps this film is a wake up call.