The State of Journalism

Journalism & Documentary Films Today

The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two journalists Maria Ressa (Philippines) and Dmitry Muratov (Russia) for their fight for freedom of expression in their own country and as representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal.

Use this month’s doc films and forum resources to shine a light on the current state of local journalism in the U.S., what is represented, if it’s trusted, and if this current climate is a harbinger of the future.

BELLINGCAT: Truth in a Post Truth World  Trailer

Scholars and Filmmakers Weigh In

We invited Professor Patricia Aufderheide to discuss relevant themes with Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, director of The Viewing Booth, a documentary that turns the camera on the viewer asking us to probe deeply into processes of objectivity and subjectivity in a world filled with non-fiction images and video readily created, uploaded, and viewed on social media. Use highlights from this conversation for coursework and research in critical media literacy, psychology, journalism, Middle Eastern studies, and film.


Dr. Patricia Aufderheide

Professor of Communication Studies, American University

Ra'anan Alexandrowicz

Writer, Director, Editor The Viewing Booth |
The Law in These Parts (2011), Grand Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival, Peabody Award

Fran Sterling

Moderator, Co-Founder, Blueshift Education

  • Director of The Viewing Booth Ra'anan Alexandrowicz offers his insights on why he made this film and how it offers a way to probe deeply into the uses of non-fiction images and video to confirm or dispel already held beliefs and worldviews.

  • Professor Patricia Aufderheide on why documentary films continue to be a trusted source of media, the challenges the documentary field is currently facing, and ways to respond.

  • Director Ra'anan Alexandrowicz and Professor Patricia Aufderheide take a critical look at the field of media literacy and offer their evaluation of its current relationship to documentary film.

  • Professor Patricia Aufderheide shares the importance of using documentary film in higher education and how she will be using The Viewing Booth in her current coursework.

The State of Journalism in a Democracy


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Art Cullen and his family fight to unite and inform their Iowan farming community through their biweekly newspaper, The Storm Lake Times—even as the paper hangs on by a thread. Twice a week they work as civic watchdogs to protect their hometown and the legacy of credible journalism, at large—come hell or pandemic.

Democracy is fed by independent news

Democracy is fed by independent news holding power accountable, revealing insights on the most urgent issues of our time, and telling stories often overlooked by mainstream media. But news deserts in rural and urban communities that have limited access to these resources now number over 200+ with local news reaching a crisis.
  • Over the past 15 years, more than one in five papers in the U.S. has closed [1]
  • ⅓ of U.S. newspapers experienced layoffs in 2020. Iowa lost six local papers since the pandemic. [2]
  • 84% of adults report they often or sometimes get news from a digital device. 51% saying they do so often. [3]
  • Today print trails television and radio as to how people get their news and the platforms vary according to age, gender, race, ethnicity, and educational attainment. [4]
    • Under 50 prefer digital devices
    • Over 50 prefer television
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
“A newspaper is only as healthy as its community. And a community is only as strong as its newspaper.”
Art Cullen, Editor of the Storm Lake Times

STORM LAKE has screened at 50+ events and is currently on PBS

PEN America Event Highlight from
AFI DOCS Interview
The Iowa Caucus's
and Storm Lake
AFI Docs Interview
The Iowa Caucus's and Storm Lake
Pulitzer-prize-winning editor Art Cullen and co-directors Jerry Risius and Beth Levison of Storm Lake in conversation with PEN America on public trust and journalism today. Film team from Storm Lake speak with Margaret Sullivan from The Washington Post on the importance of why local news is critical for our democracy. Erik Palmer, Professor of Communication, Southern Oregon University in conversation with Jerry Risius and Beth Levison at Ashland Independent Film Festival.
All video clips, images and articles are copyright to their respective owners and are protected under international copyright laws. For comments, questions or remarks, please contact us.
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What is Film Platform Forum?

A blog highlighting the most relevant documentary film content for the academic world and organizations with a mission to educate. Film events, professional training, and academic research are carefully curated to amplify the impact of documentary films included on Film Platform.

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Why Film Platform Forum Now?

Documentary films tell us stories of social and political import. They reveal hidden truths, are windows into investigative journalism, touch our emotions, and uncover forgotten history. For higher education institutions and workplaces, documentary films are a resource to engage, inspire, and inform like no other form of content.

Such stories are vital to sustain and strengthen media literacy.  As faculty keep pace with the media students consume, they also need to trust the scholarship and content they are recommending. Like a syllabus, the monthly edition of the Forum will be vetted, curated, and aligned to the monthly documentary topic. In any given month the Forum may highlight a new film on Film Platform, share a highly relevant panel event for faculty and students to attend, direct attention towards new research, recommend ‘Calls to Action’, or analyze the merits and veracity of critiques and controversies connected to the documentary.