Absence of Malice Ė A quarter century after this movie was released (1981) its subject of ethics in journalism remains relevant. A liquor distributor in Miami, Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman), becomes a target of interest in an investigation of a mob murder because of his deceased fatherís long-ago association with the Mafia; the DAís Strike Force director uses an unwitting newspaper reporter Megan Carter (Sally Fields) to write a story labeling Gallagher as a suspect in a federal probe, thus smearing his reputation.
Her story creates many unintended consequences, including a suicide and Meganís romantic involvement with Gallagher, all without malice. Gallagher manages to cleverly turn the tables on his accusers. During an inquiry of all the events (this is a terrific scene that summarizes all of the foregoing), US Assistant Attorney General James A. Wells (Wilford Brimley) threatens the DA, the director of the Strike Force, and Megan with grand-jury subpoenas if they donít explain their involvement; and when Megan hesitates to reveal her sources for her story, Wells threatens her with jail time. Sound familiar? Written by former journalist Kurt Luedtke, the movie questions the distinction between truth and accuracy in reporting.
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