Released In October 2003, a feature film, Shattered Glass, is set in 1998 at a respected national magazine, one with a reputation for investigative journalism by a staff of young rock-star writers and editors. The movie is the story of one of the youngest rising stars, Stephen Glass, who has a talent for discovering important stories and writing of them with depth and humor.
Shattered Glass has a story line worthy of John Grisham well executed by a debut director and a cast completely unfamiliar to me.
Early in the film the inner workings of the magazine are fleshed out: the camaraderie among the write staff, the obsession with the fact-checking they do for one another, and the pitch session staff meetings in which stories ideas are proposed.
Then the story takes a dark turn.
The dark turn occurs when a rival magazine discovers inaccuracies in one of Glass’ stories, revealing Glass to be the perpetrator of a completely false story. The factual unraveling of the story and the emotional unraveling of Glass march along in tandem.
This is a great story that captured the attention of this viewer and held it with each new plot twist–and then, the ultimate twist.
Shattered Glass is not fiction, it a high profile fraud told in meticulous detail.
During the period 1995-98, while on staff of The New Republic, Stephen Glass published 41 stories–27 were fabrications wholly or in part. There is a strong implication that the rest of the stories published over Glass’ byline were tainted. While employed full-time at The New Republic, he also wrote for other magazines, including: Policy Review, the flagship publication of the think tank Heritage Foundation; George, founded by JFK Jr.; Rolling Stone; and Harper’s. He also contributed to Public Radio International’s (PRI) weekly hour-long program This American Life, hosted by Ira Glass (no relation to Stephen).
George discovered that at least three of the stories Glass wrote for them contained fabrications. Specifically, Glass fabricated womanizing quotations attributed to Vernon Jordan, an adviser to then-President Bill Clinton. JFK Jr. wrote a personal note of apology to Jordan.
Glass is still listed as a notable contributor to George on its Wikipedia page.
Glass was fired, went to Georgetown Law School. He graduated magna cum laude and passed the bar exam, but was refused a license to practice, citing moral unfitness. He moved to California, where he passed the bar exam. In a filing for a license to practice law in California, Glass updated his accounting of fabricated stories while at TNR from 27 to 36. At last report he is working as a legal assistant for a firm specializing in slip and fall litigation and auto accidents. I get the idea this is what ordinary language would call ambulance chasers. Glass has been refused a license in California as well, and has appealed to the California Supreme Court.
The DVD of Shattered Glass, contains over an hour of scene commentary by the director and one of the major characters. There is also a 15-minute segment from 60 Minutes, a conversation between Steve Croft and the protagonist.
In 2003 Glass wrote a work of fiction called The Fabulist, the story line is in line with the events at The New Republic and the protagonist’s name is . . . Stephen Glass. One report has him earning $140,000 from the novel.
The ultimate irony, doncha think? Glass got in trouble by passing off counterfeit truths when a career as a novelist awaited his huge ability to create fiction employing his polished writing skills to create persuasive labyrinthine plots.