business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Best Picture win by Spotlight last weekend was enormously satisfying ... not that I put all that much stock in the Academy Awards as a measure of quality, but because I thought it was a wonderful movie about a subject that I think is incredibly important, about a business - journalism - that I think of in religious terms. (I'm aware of the irony of that statement, since Spotlight is about a religion that did not keep faith with its members, and was called to account by investigators for the Boston Globe.)

I bring this up because I watched another movie last weekend about journalism that I found to be troubling on a number of levels. The film was Truth, which is about the scandal that took place at CBS News when "60 Minutes" did a story saying that President George W. Bush was given preferential treatment while serving in the Texas Air National Guard, and even failed to live up to the minimal requirements of service. The validity of the documents that purported to prove these allegations were successfully called into question, and a subsequent internal investigation led to the retirement of news anchor Dan Rather and Mary Mapes, the producer of the segment.

The movie is based on a book by Mapes that makes the argument that the story was essentially true even if the sources that provided the information were significantly flawed. I haven't read the book, but the problem for me is that the movie simply does not make the case ... and doesn't even adequately present the frustration that journalists feel when they know something is true but can't prove it ... and therefore can't report it. When a journalist makes a mistake in a reported story, that can be an agonizing moment; you may remember that the film version of All The President's Men actually ends with a mistake made by Woodward and Bernstein, and how it put the Washington Postin a very tough position.

Truth just doesn't get it right, and that's too bad, because it actually features some very good performances, especially by Cate Blanchett, who gives Mapes a little bit of edgy desperation. She doesn't want the story because of any political leanings ... she just wants it because it's a good story. Robert Redford plays Rather as a bourbon drinking lion in winter, and it struck me as a good performance that deserved more time, especially because there seem to be moments where Rather/Redford knows that his best days are in the past, and his eyes take on a mournful quality.

I expected Truth to be about how difficult it is to discover the truth, and about how illusory it can be. Facts are facts, but truth is something different, something deeper. But Truth missed that central truth.

I found myself to be disappointed in Truth more than anything else. I love journalism movies in general, and the casting of this one intrigued me. But I can't really recommend it.

Watch Spotlight instead. Or All The President's Men or Broadcast News or Absence of Malice or Good Night and Good Luck or even His Girl Friday.

One other quick note about Spotlight, if I may. I didn't realize it until after the Oscars, but the production company behind the movie is Open Road Films, which was launched in 2011 by two major movie theater companies - AMC and Regal - that wanted to have greater input into the kind of product they were showing in their multiplexes. I didn't realize it, but one of the co-chairman of Open Road when Spotlight was green-lighted was a fellow named Gerry Lopez, who at the time was the CEO of AMC.

Gerry Lopez, who used to be at Starbucks and currently is CEO of Extended Stay Hotels, happens to be a friend of mine ... and he provided one of the nicest "blurbs" for the book that Michael Sansolo and I wrote together. ( is entitled The BIG Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies, and it available from

I can't tell you how thrilled I am that I know a guy who was responsible for one of the best movies of recent years ... and I can't wait to buy him a glass of wine next time I see him.

Cheers, Gerry.

I loved this story from National Public Radio...

Apparently there is a family from a rural Southern town that has had a pretty good week.

NPR reports that the family (which wishes to remain anonymous) was sifting through a great-grandparent's possessions and found inside a crumpled brown bag seven identical Ty Cobb baseball cards from the early part of the 20th century.

Until these cards were discovered - and authenticated - only 15 of the limited release cards were known to exist.

The value of the cards is a little vague at this point, since their very existence makes them a little less rare than previous thought. But the total value likely is in the millions.


During a recent visit to Oregon, I found myself one evening sitting at the bar of the Pfriem Brewery in Hood River. Don't know quite how it happened, but it did. Must've been kismet.

I took a quick glance at the menu and ordered a Flanders Red, assuming it would be a red ale ... and instead, when I got a Belgian-style, barrel-aged beer that was thick and delicious, a little bit tart, and completely unusual. I loved it.

Like I said. Kismet.

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

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