Cherubs view journalism through movies

“Citizen Kane” comes to an end as students watch in McCormick Foundation Center. Photo by Farrah Andersen

To combat the cold temperatures in the McCormick Foundation Center auditorium, cherubs show up to movie nights wrapped in blankets, hugging pillows and dressed in pajamas and sweatshirts. Curled on the floor or in auditorium seats, cherubs watched “Citizen Kane,” “Spotlight” and “All the President’s Men.”

Led by instructor John Kupetz, cherubs spent three nights of the program watching journalism-themed movies. Kupetz mentioned key elements to notice before screening the films and he followed them by leading discussions that encouraged cherubs to share their perspectives.

“I have a lot of fun asking students what their takeaway is,” Kupetz said. “Bringing a good film to bright students is fun because you react to it and respond to it and engage with it.”

Kupetz said that although he has seen all three movies dozens of times, he never gets tired of watching them. “Citizen Kane” and “All the President’s Men” have been staples of the program for decades, and “Spotlight” joined the list in the past few years when a speaker was delayed and a “Spotlight” showing filled the gap.

“I enjoyed immersing myself because the story in ‘Spotlight’ is a very important story to tell,” said cherub Sarah Effress of La Jolla, California. “They showed me why I want to do journalism and how stories like that can have an impact bigger than yourself.”

Two of the three movies follow journalists who covered major stories while the third is based on a controversial publisher. Kupetz’s commentary ranged from pointing out film techniques to motifs to noteworthy details.

Because he had already seen the films, cherub Joseph Ramos of Arlington, Virginia, said Kupetz’s commentary helped him gain a deeper understanding of the movies.

“He identified key themes of the movie, and the discussion he did before the start of the movie allowed me to have a new mindset going in, and then at the end the discussion we had helped me digest the content in a different way,” Ramos said.

Before showing “Spotlight,” Kupetz told cherubs to look out for a repeated line of script, “good to know,” said by the journalists in the movie as they reported.

Effress, who saw the movies for the first time at cherubs, said, “The ‘good to know’ quote resonated with me in that you can never over-report because any information is good information in this field. If you think about that, it’s a lot harder to get discouraged because you’re reassuring yourself that any kind of work you’re doing, any interviews you’re getting help in any way.”

Ramos said watching journalism films helps aspiring journalists envision the career and find role models.

“Watching ‘Spotlight’ at a journalism camp in that context was special because people who were also into the same thing were getting similar things out of the movie,” Ramos said. “After the movie ended there was almost an eerie silence. Everyone was blown away.”