Some teachers may view showing a movie as an easy way out of a lesson plan, but some journalism films can get students excited about learning about the world of the media.
Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts
The Pelican Brief (1993)
The thriller, based on John Grisham’s novel of the same name, concerns a law student (Julia Roberts) who partners with an investigative reporter (Denzel Washington) as they seek to uncover the mystery of the murder of two supreme court justices. Though the film is rated PG-13 and has some violence, it would be appropriate for high school students. Showing the film would be an effective segway to discussing investigative journalism and the use of anonymous sources. Since Washington is handles the political beat, classes could talk about the career option of covering politics as a journalist and what it would be like to work in Washington, D.C.
Shattered Glass theatrical release poster
Shattered Glass (2003)
Shattered Glass tells the story of reporter Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen). Glass fabricates over half of his articles, and his lies are revealed. This film would allow a class to discuss journalism ethics and ethics in general. A basic lesson in media law would also fit in with this film. Due to the PG-13 rating, this film should be shown to high school students.
Letters to Juliet (2010)
Though this rom com isn’t as serious as most journalism-inspired dramas, it can still be utilized in a classroom setting. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is a young fact-checker for The New Yorker, but dreams of becoming a writer. She seeks to write a long feature story on the love letters women write to Juliet (yes, as in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet) at the statue of Juliet in Verona. Since Sophie discovers the story herself, a class could discuss enterprise stories and how to find news. At the end of the film, Sophie is promoted to being a reporter, so a class could discuss how to make oneself stand out while in an entry-level position (like a fact-checker). This film is also rated PG-13, but can probably be shown to both high school and middle school students.
The Help theatrical release poster
The Help (2011)
The help follows journalism graduate Skeeter (Emma Stone) as she searches for a job in 1960s Jackson, Miss. Skeeter is troubled by the unfair treatment of the African American maids in her hometown, and decides to write a nonfiction novel about their lives. However, it’s not easy to convince the maids to talk to her, as they are fearful that they will lose their jobs for talking about their treatment. A class could discuss how to talk with sources who may not want to be interviewed and how to handle anonymous sources. A class could also discuss the difficulties of writing a story on a taboo topic, as Skeeter writes on racism in the 1960s South.