Samantha Grant talks ‘A Fragile Trust’ and Jayson Blair

Samantha Grant starts a conversation on ethics in journalism with ‘A Fragile Trust’

By James Palmer

Samantha Grant
Samantha Grant speaks with a student about ethics in journalism. Photo by James Palmer

In 2013, Samantha Grant, filmmaker and CEO of GUSH Productions, created a documentary based around the actions of a reporter, Jayson Blair, during his employment at the New York Times. However, Grant’s focus was not in the scandal surrounding a supposed sociopath, but in the ethical questions surrounding plagiarism in the digital age of journalism.

For many, including Grant, there was one simple question to be answered: what happened? Grant explained that there were many individuals, including those directly involved in the scandal, who wanted more information on why Blair went to such great lengths to plagiarize. Grant sought to answer this question by making a documentary detailing Blair’s contributions to the Times.

However, as she dove into the project, she found that the direction the film was taking was not matching what she wished to accomplish in making it.

“When I was making this film, I really felt like I was spending a lot of time shining a light on all the things that are wrong with journalism, and not offering any solutions,” Grant said.

Grant explained that she wanted to use the film to both tell the story of Jayson Blair and raise ethical questions about journalism in a new era of publication techniques.

“One of the things I wanted to do as a filmmaker and as a storyteller and as an educator was offer something that could be used to kind of help talk about and and teach ethics in the digital age,” Grant said.

Grant created a web-based game called ‘Decisions on Deadline,’ to teach the different aspects of ethics in journalism in a fun and interactive way.

In explaining her passion for ethics, Grant shifted the intrigue of advertising super senior Jordan Gray during the film preview.

“The ethics questions that are raised have kind of taken over my interest [from the scandal],” Gray said. Gray stated that journalism was “not in her wheelhouse,” but attending the conference had swayed her interests.
Others, such as english major, media studies and education double minor Camille Feyen, were more interested in other aspects of Grant’s experience with “A Fragile Trust.”

“I expected her to talk more about the filmmaking process, and instead she focused more on the ethics of documentarians,” Feyen said. Feyen planned to do more research on ‘A Fragile Trust’ and ethics in journalism in the future.

James Palmer is a journalism senior at Texas State University.

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