Richard Jewell: On screen and off

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December 15, 2019 by jacklovelace

In my basic journalism class, I used to offer from the textbook examples of good and bad journalism.

On bad journalism I always used Richard Jewell.

Someone bombed the Atlanta Olympics. The FBI investigated security guard Richard Jewell. The Atlanta newspaper printed that he was a prime suspect and the nationwide media went nuts. Jewell was fried in the press.

One problem.

He didn’t do it.

After he was cleared he and his attorney went around America collecting libel money,

since he was not a public figure and he really was libeled.

I saw the movie today.

Two different reactions.

What was on the screen was very good, acting, emotion, powerful story. The point

was “we could all be Richard Jewell” if the media goes off rails.

Off the screen, Clint Eastwood took some liberties with the story, a sexed up reporter,

crediting the attorney for figuring out the timeline that meant Jewell couldn’t have done it, when the newspaper actually checked in and ran it.

Bothering me more was leaving out the money collection tour. It was fair and Jewell deserved every cent but the story makes it all victim without any retribution.

I would definitely not let any of that stop me from seeing the movie.

And as a journalist, I like the reminder of responsible reporting can be life changing.

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