Even before President Donald Trump called the media, “the enemy of the American people,” and began using the term fake news to discredit journalists, trust in the media was already at an all-time-low.
A 2016 report by Gallup, an independent survey company, said Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” had dropped to its lowest level since 1972 when they first started asking the question.
Bill Gentile, a full-time film and media professor at American University hopes to curb this trend by taking people behind the scenes and showing them the sacrifice and dedication of the journalists that bring them the news.
“There’s misconceptions about what journalist are and what they do,” Gentile said. “And with this series I want to help set the record straight.”
Gentile is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker with more than 30 years of field experience. His newest project, Freelancers with Bill Gentile, explores a new breed of tech-savvy freelance journalists that are increasingly filling the void left by mainstream media outlets that have cut staff and closed bureaus around the world.
The global series kicked off in Mexico where Gentile started his journalism career in 1977 as a reporter for Mexico City News and correspondent for United Press International. He and filmmaker Matt Cipollone spent ten days filming the lives of journalists in Nogales, Mexico City, and Guerrero.
They followed one journalist while she explored the high infant mortality rate in Mexico and another journalist as he explored the underground tunnels used by drug smugglers at the Arizona-Mexico border. They sat with a young couple in their home where they spoke about the hardships and instability that comes with being a freelancer.
For the next episode Gentile plans to do something similar in Turkey the main hub for freelancers covering Syria and Iraq. The global series will focus on the countries that are used by freelancers as base camps when they are reporting across borders.
Gentile started an Indiegogo campaign to pay for expenses during filming of the pilot and to help fund their next episodes. A release date has not been set but Gentile hopes to have the first episode ready to air early next year.
“I think the project is really timely because of what’s been happening in our society and around the world,” Gentile said. “We want to get it out as soon as possible.”
The first screening of the rough cut was in November at Gentile’s home where he received lots of positive feedback. He said they are taking some of these suggestions back to the editing room before finalizing post production.
After the first episode is complete, Gentile said they are hoping to sell the series and have started working on a marketing plan.