Wick Communications

‘Nobody Speak’

In Media on July 13, 2017 at 2:10 pm

I’ve just seen a new documentary that is bound to fill any journalist with pride and dread. It’s a Netflix original called, “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press.” I highly recommend it to you.

First, speaking of pride, I want to say that I heard about the film from Ryan Mac. He’s a former Half Moon Bay Review intern who appears in the film only briefly, but he played a big role in revealing the truth about one of the biggest First Amendment challenges of the last generation. Mac, then working for Forbes, first reported that tech billionaire Peter Thiel was behind Hulk Hogan’s expensive lawsuit that ultimately brought down the Gawker media empire.

I know. It sounds weird, which is why the story didn’t really resonate with me at the time. But as laid out here in the documentary, the Gawker case dots connect to form an arrow into the heart of journalism and the American democracy.

The goes into great depth describing the Hogan v. Gawker case. Apparently because Gawker properties have reported on Silicon Valley in a negative light, Thiel (who founded PayPal and is a major funder of Facebook) decided to take it down. He financed Hogan’s successful civil case, which revolved around publishing a sex tape, and was able to bankrupt an entire media company.

The entire film, to my mind, is a bit uneven. It attempts to tie together three different stories in which notable men with money are making it their business to put us out of business. Why? Because a free press is bad for their businesses. …

The most affecting part of the movie may be the third of it that deals with the sad fate of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. That is the once-proud paper of record that was bought by gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson. There is no more powerful man in Las Vegas than Adelson, who owns half the town and, having given $25 million to Donald Trump (another villain in the film), is the president’s most generous contributor. One day, out of nowhere, the newspaper was sold. When the staff asked who had bought the paper, it was told to mind its own business. Literally. Well, knowing stuff is kind of a journalist’s business. Heroically, the staff uncovered the new ownership and the result was predictable. Most of them lost their jobs … and the truth was told. The movie also devotes time to the incredibly vile things Donald Trump has had to say about the media.

The film makes the case that rich men with vendettas are imperiling our democracy by effectively putting journalists out of business. It’s distressing as hell. It’s also inspiring to see how seriously real journalists take their responsibilities.

“All the President’s Men.” “Spotlight.” “Nobody Speak.” These are movies all of us should see.

Clay

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