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In the newly released film "Nightcrawler," actor Jake Gyllenhaal plays slimy freelance journalist Lou Bloom, who becomes a freelance videographer driven by the credo of, "If it bleeds, it leads."
In an interview with Deadline magazine, filmmakers Dan and Tony Gilroy said they weren't just out to make a thriller, but to hold a mirror up to what the news media has become in the digital age. To the Gilroys, the landscape is one of corruption and profiteering rather than serious journalism.
"(Local news) is all about selling the statistically disproved narrative that urban crime is creeping into the suburbs. To spread fear and grab viewers," Dan Gilroy said. "They package it like news, but it comes out as a narrative to spread fear."
As Gyllenhaal's "Nightcrawler" character speeds through the nocturnal streets of L.A. hungry for his next lead, the film's seemingly dim view of the lengths some institutions will go to for ratings reflect a grim real-life outlook on journalism itself.
A 2011 Pew Research poll found that the public's confidence in the accuracy of the media was at an all-time low. Three quarters of the population said at the time they didn't feel journalists got their facts straight, while two thirds said they believed news stories were often inaccurate and three quarters said they felt journalists covered up their mistakes rather than owned up to them.
But Movie Pilot's Lisa Carol Fremont argued that "Nightcrawler" isn't so much a reflection on the news industry as it is on its audience and its escalating taste for violence.
"We are a society weaned on and fattened up by rubbernecking journalism and worse than that, we are complicit in it," Fremont wrote. "Lou is just another cog in this giant machine that seems to celebrate real life violence, heartache and human ugliness."
Dan Gilroy, too, said that as much as the film indicts of television news, it also has the American public in its judging crosshairs.
"The facility and ease with which these images are now coming at us, we have to decide on a minute-by-minute basis what we let in and what we don’t," Gilroy said. "The viewers are the users of the images that get shown on TV. We are part of that system; whatever is being fed to us, and we consume it like fast food, keeps coming because we seem to demand it."