Bob Scheiffer, George Clooney, Brian Williams and Carl Bernstein are just a few of the journalism and film luminaries to take part in the Reel Journalism® series of screenings and discussions, co-produced by American University’s School of Communication and the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
It was less than three months after the Watergate break-in when Carl Bernstein realized that he and Bob Woodward were on to something huge. Commiserating in a snack area outside the newsroom, Bernstein raised his hand to put a dime in the vending machine and felt a blast down his spine. “Oh my God,” he turned to Woodward. “This president is going to be impeached.”
It would be nearly two years before Bernstein's prophecy would begin to come true, and Richard Nixon would become the first U.S. president to remove himself from office.
Reflecting on that pivotal moment in U.S. history some 36 years later, Bernstein felt that same sensation down his neck. He recalled Woodward's immediate response. “You're right,” the young Washington Post reporter had said. “And we can never use that word – 'impeachment' – in this newsroom, because they'll think we have an agenda.”
Bernstein offered that intimate recollection to a packed house at the Newseum, setting the stage for a screening of the seminal 1976 film about his Watergate investigation, “All The President's Men.” The film and discussion were part of the American University School of Communication Reel Journalism series, which has brought some of the world's most prominent journalists, filmmakers, and influencers to engage with Washington, DC audiences since 2003. SOC’s dean, Larry Kirkman, explained the purpose of the series in his introductory remarks for Good Night and Good Luck: “Reel journalism expresses the shared mission of American’s School of Communication and the Newseum to use these great films to promote widespread discussion about the role of journalism in public affairs. The stories we tell about journalists are very significant and influential because they help set our expectations for journalism in our democracy, as a profession and as a public service.”
The ground-breaking co-production between two of the nation's top media institutions has attracted leading figures from the world of film and journalism – from Bob Schieffer and George Clooney to DeeDee Myers and George Stephanopoulos – to tackle the key issues defining today's world and provide insight into the stories behind the issues.
The spirited panel discussions draw participation from audience members – many of whom are themselves journalism students at American University – and are hosted by SOC’s Distinguished Journalist in Residence Nick Clooney, who brings an unparalleled combination of news sense and film expertise.
Clooney, who authored the book The Movies That Changed Us: Reflections on the Screen, has been in the news business for more than 50 years, anchoring newscasts in Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles, hosting nationally broadcasted TV shows, and producing documentary films and Emmy-award winning commentary. There could be no better guide to help us discover the world-changing power of journalism – through the medium of film.
“Without the work of committed journalists, our democracy would not survive,” explains Clooney. “But that work is almost always done in obscurity. Hollywood has helped shine a light on it – helped the American people come to understand – and sometimes even appreciate – the people, the processes, and the power of journalism.
“At a time when the media industry is facing financial peril, it's more important than ever that Americans get to know the stories behind their nightly newscasts and daily papers. That's what we're doing here with Reel Journalism.”
The film screenings and panel-audience discussions regularly draw sold-out crowds to the Newseum's state-of-the-art Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater. Monthly events during Reel Journalism's sixth season include NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams discussing his favorite journalism film, “Absence of Malice” and Floyd Abrams, the pre-eminent First Amendment lawyer of our time, talking about the 2008 thriller “Nothing But the Truth.”
And the “Real to Reel” series expands on the wildly successful Reel Journalism program, bringing embassies, interest groups, and cultural organizations into the mix to present films and distinguished speakers on key social issues and global cultural themes.