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Accuracy of 'The Insider' and CBS' Reaction to It. Rivera Live. CNBC. 19 Oct. 1999. Transcript.
Reporter Jane Wells discusses with host Geraldo Rivera whether or not this film portrayed Mike Wallace fairly. Wallace claims that it did not, but he hasn't even seen the film yet! Also featured is Jerry Nachman, a former employee of CBS. Nachman worked for the company during the time of the Wigand interview scandal. According to Nachman, there was nothing that either Wallace or Don Hewitt could have done to change the outcome of the decision to cut Wigand's interview on 60 Minutes.
Bergman, Lowell. "Network Television News: With Fear and Favor." Columbia Journalism Review 39.1 (2000): 50.
After twenty-one years in broadcast journalism, Bergman has been witness to a host of changes in the field. According to Bergman, what has changed is the media's practice when it comes to a story that could complicate business or financial interests. Rather than waiting to see if it is slapped with a lawsuit, a news corporation acts preemptively -- it "self-edits" potential news pieces. Bergman recalls several instances of this happening during his time at CBS.
Kurtz, Howard, Bernard Kalb, and Carl Rochelle. "Lowell Bergman Talks About 'The Insider.'" CNN Reliable Sources. CNN. 20 Nov. 1999. Transcript.
Under fire about the accuracy of The Insider, Bergman (who consulted with director Michael Mann to make the film) makes an important point: this film is not a documentary, but rather a dramatization. Bergman argues that the function of the film was to show a previously uncovered part of the journalistic world. By this he is referring to how political reasons do indeed play a role in the censorship of a television news program.
Lacayo, Richard. "Truth and Consequences." Time 1 Nov. 1999: 18.
Lacayo focuses on the issue of credibility. It is the credibility of Wigand, Bergman, Wallace, 60 Minutes, and especially CBS that is at stake in The Insider. Interestingly enough, the issue of credibility is also brought up concerning the film itself, especially the liberty with which director Michael Mann fictionalized certain events. It seems like everyone has a different version of the truth, which is not so difficult to believe considering that the film "tells a complicated story involving true insiders, people who confer in closed-door corporate meetings."
McGuigan, Cathleen. "Mann Is in the Details." Time 8 Nov. 1999: 98.
This very brief article notes how director Michael Mann is very deliberate with every scene in his films, right down to the tiny details; for example he placed an intentional smudge on the glasses belonging to Wigand's character (played by Crowe). Mann recalls, "The smudge helps me feel the awkwardness of the man." His extensive character notes are the result of intense study of his film's subjects. Even the actors he hires must adhere to Mann's strict strategies for "becoming" a character: Mann made Crowe perform chemistry experiments as part of his preparation to play the role of scientist Wigand. McGuigan's observation should serve as a reminder to moviegoers: in high-quality films, nothing is done by accident.
Miller, Mark Crispin. "Censorship Inc." Free Inquiry 20.2 (2000): 11.
Miller comments on the changing rules of journalism. The increasing influence of corporate powers has put a strain on the media's role as an objective source of public information. He relates the tale from The Insider to a hypothetical one: would a journalist working for ABC ever do an exposè on the NFL or one of its teams? The answer is no, because ABC has a vested interest in NFL's financial success. Thus we see that the traditional journalistic integrity has been compromised in recent years.
Osborne, D.M. "Real to Reel." Brill's Content July/August 1999: 75-80.
Another attempt at dissecting the real from the reel in The Insider, Osborne's analysis clearly seems to favor Mike Wallace's version of the truth -- that Lowell Bergman was not the sole saving grace of the 60 Minutes/Jeffrey Wigand scandal as he has portrayed himself to be. What is intriguing about this article is that it came out months before The Insider was even released. Osborne's only basis for comments on the film come from his viewing of the screenplay and even that was still in the revision process.
Roffman, Peter, and Beverly Simpson. "Big Businessmen in American Cinema." The Political Companion to American Film. Ed. Gary Crowdus. Chicago: Lakeview Press, 1994. 34-40.
This essay discusses the changing role that big business has played in American films throughout the years. The good and fair boss of a corporation has transformed into the evil C.E.O. who cares nothing about those who slave away under him. Roffman and Simpson conclude that "Hollywood seems to be warning us of what can happen in these times when power is not tempered by fair play and the principles of the American success ethic."
Stein, Nicholas. "Hollywood Two-Step." Columbia Journalism Review 37.4 (1998): 12.
This article examines a recent trend: the pairing of magazines and newspapers with the Hollywood film industry. The reason for this coupling is that Hollywood is in search of movie ideas that are about "real people," because they more successfully capture the public's interest. Stein's observation makes perfect sense considering today's craze for reality television shows.
Stepp, Carl Sessions. "Film Dour." American Journalism Review 22.1 (2000): 56.
"Film Dour" provides an excellent critical analysis of the key differences between The Insider and All the President's Men. Stepp is most concerned with a shift that has occurred between the times these two films were made. While All the President's Men celebrates the victory of a band of journalists out to find the truth, Stepp feels that The Insider's journalist figures must stand alone. No one stood behind Bergman when he fought to keep the Wigand interview on the air; he was on his own. Stepp is also alarmed by The Insider's "blurry" line between what really happened and the fictional events added in for entertainment purposes. For a film that is supposedly about "the truth," there seems to be an awful lot of fictional information in this film.
Thoret, Jean-Baptiste. "The Aquarium Syndrome: On the Films of Michael Mann." Trans. Anna Dzenis. Simulacres 2000: 72-85.
Thoret offers a critical analysis of "the aquarium syndrome" and its application to the films of Michael Mann. According to Thoret, this syndrome occurs "when the island is no more than an outline, a contrivance. All is breakaway and exteriority on this impossible island that is a goldfish bowl." The Insider scene in which Wigand hallucinates in a hotel room is dissected, as is the character of Bergman. Based on how The Insider ends, Thoret comes to the conclusion that life outside the aquarium is not possible. Bergman stepped outside the mold and no longer had a place at CBS; thus, he was forced to leave.

See Also

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Video/Audio Resources

The Films of Michael Mann. Dir. Robert J. Emery and Milt Fensen. New York: Winstar Productions, 2001.
Episode of the television series, The Directors.

Online Resources

Beshkin, Abigail. "The Insider: A Look at Corporate Influence on the News." Columbia News 4 Nov. 1999. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/news/99/11/corporateInfluence.html
This Columbia University article briefly reviews a discussion panel that took place at the School of Journalism's First Amendment Breakfast. The topic discussed was "Hollywood & Journalism: Uneasy Partners?" Wigand and Bergman were both present to offer their opinions on whether or not a film sold for entertainment purposes, such as The Insider can claim to be based on real life events. New York Times editor John Darnton took issue with Insider director Michael Mann's excuse that it is virtually impossible to recreate in a film an event that actually happened in real life. According to Darnton, "When I see something on the screen that's presented as truth...it's such a powerful medium -- it overwhelms me and I say 'that's probably what happened.'" Also at the discussion was Marie Brenner, author of "The Man Who Knew Too Much," the Vanity Fair article on which The Insider was based. Brenner defended the film, saying that it conveyed its intended message: corporate interests affect what news gets shown to the public.
Brookes, Nick. "Film Full of Inaccuracies." USA Today 19 Nov. 1999: 18A. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/USAToday/access/46499708.html?FMT=ABS
In his opinion piece, Brookes denounces this film and all those involved in its making: "By knowingly making false accusations against our company and our employees, Disney has acted unfairly and maliciously, with a wholesale disregard for the truth." In case you haven't already guessed, Brookes works for Brown & Williamson; in fact, he is the company's chairman and chief executive officer. Besides denying the accusations made against B&W in the film, Brookes lobs his own accusations at Wigand. He claims that Wigand lied about being threatened and even put a bullet in his own mailbox in order to frame B&W. Obviously this is a case where it is difficult to determine which party is telling the truth; nevertheless, Brookes is right to feel that his company was misrepresented. He makes a very good point: "It is simply wrong for a filmmaker in the pursuit of making a 'docudrama' to use real names, but then fictionalize the story for dramatic purposes." I think any other person in his situation would have to agree.
Dzenis, Anna. "Michael Mann." Sense if Cinema. http://archive.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/02/mann.html
Essay and filmography on Mann.
Hewitt, Don. "Insider Views The Insider." Columbia Journalism Review 39.2 (2000): 8. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3613/is_200007/ai_n8910890
Hewitt sounds off on what he labels "a second-rate adaptation of a first-rate Marie Brenner piece." He has many criticisms for the newly-released Michael Mann film, the most significant one being The Insider's inclusion of several events that Hewitt says did not happen. In addition, Hewitt denies the implication that CBS canned the Wigand segment in order to protect an impending business deal.
The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture http://www.ijpc.org/
Journalism Professor Joe Saltzman founded this site, with a mission to "investigate and analyze, through research and publication, the conflicting images of the journalist in film, television, radio, commercials, cartoons, and fiction, demonstrating their impact on the American public's perception of newsgatherers." That said, this site is extremely professional and offers a selection of various reports and publications concerning this topic.
Jenkins, Holman W., Jr. "Forget the Movie and TV Show. I'll Wait for the Book." Junk Science.com. http://www.junkscience.com/nov99/jenkins.htm
Jenkins' point-of-view is interesting, considering he has not even seen The Insider yet. Still, this does not stop him from already choosing which side to support. He adamantly denies the credibility of Big Tobacco whistleblower Wigand, suggesting that he may be no more than a disgruntled ex-employee out for revenge; Jenkins even dismisses the notion that Wigand had any sort of "whistle" to blow. Jenkins feels that CBS executives may have made the right choice, based on the evidence they had.
Levant, Ezra. "Certain Events Have Been Fictionalized." National Post Online 14 Dec. 1999. http://193.78.190.200/10/np4.htm [Archived]
Levant comes down hard on those who get their "facts" from movies, especially a man by the name of Stan Shanstein. Shanstein is an anti-smoking activist who defended Wigand against Levant's own claims of Wigand's troubled history with the law. To refute Levant's claims, Shanstein cited examples from The Insider. Movies are for entertainment purposes only, warns Levant. His argument is one side of the crucial debate that the Reel American History project explores: how do films function as the tellers of history?
Maximum Russell Crowe http://www.maximumcrowe.net/
Admittedly, a superfan's homage to Russell Crowe has the potential to produce laughable results for one compiling resources for a scholarly research project. Surprisingly, though, this website offers an extensive section on Crowe's film The Inside, complete with Marie Brenner's Vanity Fair article (the source of the screenplay), transcripts of Wigand's appearance on 60 Minutes, reviews of the movie, and links to other relevant websites. Especially helpful was a group of fifteen articles found under the heading "The Insider: In Print," which included several articles about the film that I had not seen yet. Make sure to check out the following ones: "Smoke Lingers as 'The Insider' Does a Slow Burn," by Paul Lieberman and Myron Levin; "Everybody Gets Burned in 'The Insider,'" by Bob Strauss; and "Insider: Selling a Journalism Drama," by Mark Jurkowitz.
McCarty, John. "Michael Mann." Film Reference. http://www.filmreference.com/Directors-Lu-Mi/Mann-Michael.html
Facts and brief analysis of Mann's career.
Milloy, Steven. "'The Insider': Whistleblowing or Sucking Air?" Junk Science.com. http://www.junkscience.com/nov99/insider.htm
Known as "The Junkman," Steven Milloy has made a career out of writing about "all the junk that's fit to debunk," as the slogan on his website goes. Milloy has no kind words for The Insider nor for Wigand. The words "yawn" and "boring" are used repeatedly to describe his reaction to the film. He claims that Wigand lied about being threatened by Brown & Williamson and never even technically "blew the whistle" on Big Tobacco because we all knew cigarettes were dangerous anyway! Milloy's conclusion? "Everyone should go see Disney's new movie 'The Insider.' It's celluloid proof the anti-tobacco company has gone overboard." (A final note: It's interesting that of all the potential "junk" in The Insider, Milloy chose to attack Wigand. I wonder why Milloy didn't debunk any of the thousands of lies that Big Tobacco has been spewing out to the public for decades.)
Weir, David. "Not just blowing smoke." Salon Movie Interview 5 Nov. 1999. http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/int/1999/11/05/bergman
Weir interviews the former 60 Minutes producer Bergman about the truth behind The Insider. Bergman admits that director Michael Mann reordered the sequence of certain events, created composite characters, and even added a few events that never actually happened. But Bergman is fine with this because, as Mann has asserted over and over again, this film was not mean to be a documentary! Bergman also responds to former colleague Mike Wallace's public accusations that Bergman has taken credit for things he never did.