Film & Media Studies Presents: A Fragile Trust
Q&A with director Samantha Grant by Skype
30 April at 4:30pm in the Johnson Center Cinema
A Fragile Trust tells the shocking story of Jayson Blair, the most infamous serial plagiarist of our time, and how he unleashed the massive scandal that rocked the New York Times and the entire world of journalism. In 2003 Blair was caught plagiarizing the work of other reporters and supplementing his own reporting with fabricated details in dozens of different stories published in the Times. The ensuing media frenzy left a major blemish on the history of the "Old Grey Lady," which just a year earlier won a record 7 Pulitzer prizes for its coverage of 9/11. It was a spectacular fall for both Blair and the paper. The daily operations of the Times newsroom became a public spectacle as every major news outlet picked up the story and ran with it. The fact that Blair is African-American was emphasized again and again as accounts of the ‘Blair Affair’ served up sordid details in a soap-opera style tale of deception, drug abuse, racism, mental illness, hierarchy, white guilt, and power struggles inside the hallowed halls of the New York Times.
The film follows Blair as he slowly unravels in the face of mounting pressures and distractions. Starting with his ‘reporting’ of the plagiarized article that ultimately lead to his undoing, we trace the rise and fall of this fascinating young reporter as he clings to his career at the Times even as he is losing his mind.
The Jayson Blair scandal is at the most basic level a compelling, character-driven narrative about an important chapter in the history of journalism. It is also a complex story about power, ethics, representation, race, and accountability in the mainstream media. Featuring exclusive interviews with everyone involved, including former Executive Editor Howell Raines and Blair himself, A Fragile Trust is the first film to tell the whole sordid story of the scandal while exploring these deeper themes. With more and more publications moving to online-only formats and plagiarism on the rise, this cautionary tale about the slippery slope of ethical transgressions is more relevant than ever.
Samantha Grant (Director/Producer) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, journalist, and educator. Her approach to storytelling is influenced by both her undergraduate degree in American Studies/Literature from Yale University and her Master’s of Journalism degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Through her San Francisco-based GUSH Productions, Sam has created work for clients including MTV, ABC, PBS, CNN, NPR, Frontline, and Al Jazeera International. Currently, Sam is creating the Educational Alternate Reality Game Decisions on Deadline, which teaches journalism ethics through an interactive and entertaining experience. Sam is also the DP/Producer of the upcoming feature documentary Girls in the Forest, which tells the story of a revolutionary girls high school being built in one of the last pristine forests in South America. When she’s not shooting or producing independent documentaries, you can find Sam lecturing at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Stanford’s Knight Fellowship program.
The Skype Q&A will be moderated by GMU's Journalism Program director Beth Jannery.
This event is free and open to the public.
A Fragile Trust and Samantha Grant's Skype Q&A is sponsored by Film & Media Studies. The event is cosponsored by African & African American Studies, Communication, Criminology, Law & Society, Cultural Studies, English, Film & Video Studies, the Honors College, Psychology, and Women & Gender Studies.
April 24, 2014