I just came across an oldie-but-goodie interview with Jason Reitman, posted by New York‘s Jada Yuan on 12.27.09.

Yuan mentions at the end that N.Y. Press critic Armond White is no fan of Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking, Juno or Up In The Air. An amused Reitman states that his films are polarizing, and then says the following: “I would be curious to hear what Armond thinks of The Insider, a film that goes [slams down fist]: ‘Smoking bad! Tobacco people bad!’ And for me that’s so boring. But, look, for some that’s the experience they want and those movies exist for them.”

Most of the moviegoers who’ve heard of The Insider probably still think it’s an anti-smoking drama (a misconception that Disney marketing let slide when the film opened), but you’d think that a smart guy like Reitman would know better. The Insider is about the killing of a major 60 Minutes news story, and about the wreckage (personal, professional, cultural) that this action causes. At most the film was peripherally or tangentially about smoking. And the fact that the 60 Minutes news story was about Big Tobacco was secondary.

The fact that Big Tobacco had enough money and legal power to make CBS corporate feel legally threatened (and thus leading to the story being de-balled on 60 Minutes) is what’s crucial to the story. It was a movie about big-time TV journalists being pushed around and then folding their tent. But the adversarial element could have just as easily been weapons manufacturers or any politically powerful concern.

Big Tobacco turned the pressure on, CBS corporate candy-assed out, and the top guys at 60 Minutes (except for Al Pacino‘s Lowell Bergman) did what their corporate bosses told them to do.

Since The Insider was released in ’99, it’s become common knowledge that due to their corporate-ownership and corporate priorities, major news media orgs can’t really be counted upon to report the tough stories (’03 Iraq invasion, WMDs). Robert Kane PappasOrwell Rolls In His Grave (’04) spelled this out pretty clearly. For my money the serious hardball information today comes sporadically from the N.Y. Times and from Bill Moyers’ Journal but mostly from online reporting and columnists and from the British newspapers. TV network news is pretty much out of the game.