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Journalism through a cinematic lens

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Cherubs stay behind to discuss "Citizen Kane" with instructor John Kupetz on June 30. Photo by Clementine Zei

Inside the dimmed forum of McCormick Foundation Center, 84 cherubs relived some of the greatest moments of journalism as they watched reporters investigate a president, a media tycoon and a case of sexual abuse. 

Cherubs experienced multiple tension-filled moments as they watched “All the President’s Men,” “Citizen Kane” and “Spotlight.” Behind this cinematic journey is instructor John Kupetz, who has led this tradition of movie screenings and discussions for more than a decade. 

“I hope that they take away some of the journalistic principles that are shown in these movies,” Kupetz said. “These are films that are about journalism, but they’re also great films at their own rate.”

These movie nights have been a cornerstone of the cherub experience, teaching invaluable lessons about journalism.

“Movies definitely need to be part of the cherub experience because we may be learning about how to be journalists right now, but it’s also fun to look back and see what other journalists have done in the past,” Jacqueline Caglar of Barrington, Illinois, said. 

Though the films may all be journalism-themed, Matthew Kim of Los Altos, California, said each movie offered him a different perspective on journalism.

“I appreciated how much and how well ‘Citizen Kane’ explained that journalism is something powerful, and it can corrupt you,” Kim said. “For ‘All the President’s Men,’ I really liked how it spent time focusing on how hard journalism is but also how rewarding it can be.”

The movie experience doesn’t end there. A discussion about takeaways from each movie follows each screening. 

“This is very exciting as a teacher because I’m with really bright students who are coming to great art for the first time and hearing their reaction is a real pleasure for me,” Kupetz said. 

Cate Bouvet of Bothell, Washington, said the analysis and commentary from her peers and Kupetz opened her eyes to aspects of the film she hadn’t seen before.

“I thought the discussions were really helpful to see what other people were interpreting,” Bouvet said. “John pointing out what to look for, like the lighting in Citizen Kane, was a fun experience.”

Kim said he appreciates Kupetz’s movie nights that leave a lasting impression on what it means to be a journalist.

“It’s clear that John’s a really big film nerd, so I really liked hearing him geek out,” Kim said. “Both movies showed the full breadth of how hard it can be to be a journalist and the kind of good work you can see.”

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