“Good Night, and Good Luck”: Finding Entertainment in History

“Good Night, and Good Luck”: Finding Entertainment in History
By Julie Wilson
Movie Review
November 29, 2016

It is hard not to compare a film to one seen previously, but sometimes, after seeing a great one, nothing else compares. “Good Night, and Good Luck,” written and directed by George Clooney in 2005, falls into the latter category. “Good Night, and Good Luck” tells the 1950s story of Edward R. Murrow, a radio and television broadcaster, who exposed the scaremongering tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in his witch-hunt pursuits of communist supporters in the United States.

Presented in black and white, it has a contemplative feel, mixing footage from the actual events with quality acting by David Strathairn, George Clooney, Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr. and Frank Langella among others.

Murrow (played by Strathairn), Fred Friendly (Clooney) and other CBS staff members make the choice to move beyond neutral journalism to bring a story that challenges the actions of a junior senator. Clooney and Strathairn show the emotion and struggle that comes from choosing sides, wondering if they have chosen the right side and facing the potential repercussions of their decisions. They truthfully portray the responsibility of journalists to investigate and expose the realities of the world we live in, while at the same time staying true to the obligation of honest reporting.

“Good Night, and Good Luck” does have some redeeming qualities. Jazz singer, Dianne Reeves transitions scenes with music that expounds on and foreshadows scenes before and after. The actors carry themselves with the dignity of a 1950s studio and the comradery of co-workers who have forged deep friendships.

However, the lighting is distracting and the actual footage that is interwoven is sometimes hard to follow. It accurately pictures the process that broadcast journalists follow to create and present a story, but it whiplashed this viewer between slow and hard-to-understand to the fast pace of the newsroom producing what-did-I-miss feelings.

While a history buff or a journalist could easily get wrapped up in the challenges of breaking a hard but necessary story, the typical viewer just might be found dozing off, or looking a little bewildered. However, it does show the cyclical tendency of human life and the lack of learning from history as one looks to the future and the tendency of today’s people, government agencies, and journalists to look with suspicion at anyone who believes differently than them.

What Murrow stated 60 years ago could still be said today, “We can deny our heritage and our history but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. We proclaim ourselves as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom wherever it continues to exist in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. … He [McCarthy] didn’t create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right, the fault dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves. Good night, and good luck.”

 

 

 

Community Appreciation Day: Serving with One’s Strengths

Community Appreciation Day: Serving with One’s Strengths
By Julie Wilson
News Story
October 18, 2016

The students of Clarks Summit University took a break from classes to reach out and serve in their community. On Tuesday, October 18, 2016, students could be found around Northeast Pennsylvania raking leaves, cleaning buildings, delivering encouraging notes and snacks, and serving in many other capacities.  Introduction to journalism students promoted the event live on social media using the hashtag #CSUservesNEPA.

Serving Others

One community group of CSU students partnered with members of Heritage Baptist Church to bake cookies for the Fall Fun Day in the Abingtons. Group leaders Kati Raven and Amy Hannah wanted a service project that used the talents of the girls they lead. Baking cookies helped the girls see that ministry doesn’t have to be boring, and you can have fun serving others. Lexi Carver stated, “It was an opportunity for us to get together and do something we love to serve others.” God creates individuals with specific passions that He can use for His glory, and these girls were able to live this out.

Building Community

They found a need, worked together and deepened relationships through the time spent baking and preparing for the local fall fun day. Bre Guiles said the day gave them a chance to “impact the community by our love, demonstrated through teamwork.” Each student had a job in the preparation of the cookies that will be used in the community fall fun day. They were thankful for the opportunity to help the community using their strengths and passions.

Living out Scripture

Community Appreciation Day gives the students an opportunity to live out what they have learned in classes and in their Bible reading. Peter admonishes believers, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (ESV 1 Pet 4:10). Paul reminds followers of Christ that they are created for good works, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV Eph 2:10). The girls of Xi Community Group at CSU were able to live this out even in something as simple as baking cookies.

They served the fruits of their labor at The Gathering Place, 304 South State Street, during Fall Fun Day in the Abingtons.

“Spotlight”: Shining on Hard News and Effective Journalism

“Spotlight”: Shining on Hard News and Effective Journalism
By Julie Wilson
Movie Review
September 29, 2016

The purpose of art and film is to educate or entertain. “Spotlight” focuses on educating, but does it with such quality that the viewer knows the writer, director and actors have done their jobs well; so well that “Spotlight” won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.

Screen written by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy and directed by Tom McCarthy (also known for “Up”), “Spotlight” tackles the difficult subject of hard news journalism, sexual abuse by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church and the subsequent cover up by church officials, based on actual events in the city of Boston in 2001-02. The movie has an R rating due to heavy topics and language related to sexual abuse.

On the Spotlight team from The Boston Globe are four Bostonians who grew up Catholic but have placed the church and maybe even their faith aside. Add to this a new editor, Marty Baron (played by Leiv Schreiber), who is Jewish, single and cares nothing about baseball, and it seems they are on a witch hunt in an effort to revive newspaper readership. But in reality there is truth to the story they tell and it is a hard story that must be told. These news reporters struggle against the inner workings of a city with a small town feel, a city with deep connection to the Catholic Church and conflict between family and faith and knowledge and truth.

We see glimpses of the Spotlight team in their personal lives and how this can affect their news reporting. We also see their dedication to the task at hand even when it is difficult. These four reporters, played by Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James, display a commitment to exposing the truth which is critical in today’s world of cover ups and corrupt reporting. They show the intensity of deep research work, persistent phone calls and door knocking and the continuous fact checking, even under the pressure to keep quiet. Through it all, the film works to tell the story and tell it right.

The musical score adds a key element. The music is discordant and in a minor key as to make you uncomfortable. It fits the situation in a way that only adds to the cinematic value of the film, both in the opening scene at the police station, and in the closing scene clips of newspaper delivery. In addition, the interviews with the victims are highlighted with music that reminds you how hard this news investigating can be.

 

“Spotlight” is not an easy watch, but it is highly recommended based on both the importance of the story told and the quality with which it has been told. The necessity of hard journalism is summed up in the encouragement of editor Marty Baron, “Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around the dark. Suddenly, a light gets turned on and there’s a fair share of blame to go around. I can’t speak to what happened before I arrived, but all of you have done some very good reporting here. Reporting that I believe is going to have an immediate and considerable impact on our readers. For me, this kind of story is why we do this.”

Profile Article: Journalism

Lisa Mazzarella Lives out the Advice She Gives to Aspiring Journalists
By Julie Wilson
Profile Article
September 16, 2016

“When you make a mistake, make it big and bold.” This is one piece of advice Lisa Mazzarella had to learn for herself and what she now encourages to aspiring journalists.

Mazzarella is a classical music radio host with WVIA Public Media, producer of the television documentary “Our Town” and an adjunct communications instructor at her alma mater, Marywood University. But the journey that brought her here includes a few big mistakes and a few wonderful mentors.

She never imagined herself in a media career because she was painfully shy as a child. Comparing herself to Charlie Brown, she shares that just when she got the nerve to “kick the football” in answering the teacher’s questions, the teacher would take away that chance and just give the answer. It was her hesitation, her fear of making a mistake, that caused her to lose out on many opportunities.

Her journey to the arts began as a child. Her parents were champions for the arts, and this developed her love for music. They often sang together as a family with her father on classical guitar. It was after he passed away that she discovered he had a career in classical guitar before he married and had a family. Today, when Mazzarella chooses classical guitar for her daily radio show, it’s for her dad.

One of her first attempts in the arts was with violin. However, her failure in violin became the mistake that led to chorus class and opened up new opportunities, including a tour spot with Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians at age 17. This gave her the surge of confidence she needed in music and other abilities.

Her turning point came during a family night out for ice cream. When her mother ordered her a chocolate cone, she knew she really wanted vanilla and finally spoke up for herself and ordered vanilla ice cream. This was when she realized she needed to be willing to make mistakes to get what she wanted out of life.

Her best mentors were not people in the show business, but people that came into her life at the right time. One such mentor was Sister Loretta Chouinard, postmistress at Marywood University.

At a time when it seemed that life was falling apart, Chouinard stepped in and met Mazzarella’s needs. Her brother passed away unexpectedly during her freshman year at Marywood, and with the expenses, and loss of desire to study and sing, Mazzarella considered quitting. But a work-study program landed her in the campus post office where she met Chouinard, who taught her to pray, gave her advice and became a lifelong friend. During nature walks and prayer she learned that just as nature has a beginning and end, so do people. Through this, Mazzarella found her new beginning and was able to generate new life after her heavy loss.

The start of WVIA’s television series “Our Town” was another one of those moments that Mazzarella will remember forever. She was called into her boss’s office at the end of one workday and thought it was the end of her job because of the loss of state funding for the station. Her mind instantly went to the worst possible scenario of being unable to provide for herself. Instead she was offered an opportunity to produce her own television show. She had come so far from the girl who was afraid to raise her hand in class.

This documentary project focuses on discovering the unique attributes of smaller towns in the area. Each show is as different as the residents of the town. These residents tell deep, heartfelt stories with an emotion that cannot be scripted or memorized. People crave the opportunity to talk about themselves and be heard. This television show provides a connection to audiences all over the viewing area, and it helped Mazzarella truly appreciate where she lives and the surrounding towns.

In her career, Mazzarella says every day is different. There is no such thing as an average day. In broadcasting one must be smooth and consistent for the sake of the audience, even when there is pandemonium in the background. People expect a cheerful routine. It is a privilege for Mazzarella that people let her into their lives via radio on a daily basis.

When the phone rings, then she hears why she does what she does. Connecting with the audience, for Mazzarella it is with the classical music, expands her job description from broadcaster to therapist. People desire the ability to express themselves, and she gives them that opportunity. These comments and encouragement from the audience on a daily basis is what motivates her to do what she does.

Mazzarella encourages journalists to be brave and to be willing to make mistakes. In order to get what they want out of life, they must be willing to express themselves. She says, “You have your own way of speaking and creating and expression. Don’t ever, ever put that under a bushel basket.” One must face his or her fears and conquer them. Mazzarella advises aspiring journalists to be true to their convictions, don’t waver, and be professional all the time.

Mazzarella’s life and career exemplify her final advice, “Don’t be obnoxious in your confidence. There needs to be a level of humility in whatever you do, but not so humble that you don’t accomplish. Do the very best you can with the amount of time you’ve been given.”