Journalism, or the Fourth Estate, is one of the most conflicting professions of the modern age. There is a constant battle between what is relevant and what is needed. It’s good fun to know what people are wearing to the Met Gala, but it feels tiring to try and understand policies that have a lasting impact on our lives. Everybody on the internet has an opinion, and it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that our decreasing attention spans orient themselves towards these people quite often, simply because we like the concise and “fun” way in which they deliver the “news.” And the money goes where attention does. Therefore, is it really a surprise that real journalism is in favor of where the business comes from? Where does truth go amidst all this? Let’s find out through the film “The Independent.”
How Do Nick And Eli Stumble Upon The Story?
“The Independent” starts with Eli asking someone frantically to look for a person. We assume that it must be Nicholas Booker, right as he is about to give an interview at a rally. The scene then cuts to a few months back with Gordon, one of the top management people, announcing that “The Washington Chronicle” has been bought yet again, and they have to adapt their news to their whims now if they all want to keep their jobs. It makes sense that “The Independent” got right to the point with it because it would have been too boring not to, considering the political climate of our time. Either way, Eli pitches an idea about covering a school in West Virginia that has switched to a 4-day school week. Since the school is composed mainly of minorities, it could have long-lasting effects on the social fabric of the country. But Gordon shoots down the idea, as they don’t have much of a readership in West Virginia. Eli pitches another story about Nate Sterling, an independent candidate running for president. Gordon is unconvinced, but Eli brings him around by demonstrating the potential of the article. Gordon agrees but gives the article to another person named Ackerman, who chooses Kevin Conrad as his assistant. It is a moment of racism and sexism coming from an old white man in a position of authority, but it is far from surprising. However, Nick sees the potential in Eli and takes her under his wing. At a work dinner, he mentors her about the new age of journalism and lets her know that he wants her to take over once he retires, which he is going to do soon. There, she meets Senator Turnbull, who gives her a card and tells her to contact her should she need it. That night, the story about Nate Sterling is released, and Eli’s boyfriend, Lucas, is furious because he is her source. He works with Nate’s campaign, and he lets Eli know that their future discussions are always off the table. Eli agrees and goes on to interview Senator Turnbull about her opinion of Nate’s participation.
The next day at work, Eli stumbles upon some proof that is suggestive of the fact that Turnbull might be embezzling money for her campaign that is directly affecting the nation’s public schools, like the one in West Virginia. She had found it odd that lottery winnings, which usually go up during recessions, have taken a dip this year. In fact, the difference was so great that she terms it ‘a behavioral impossibility’. Another reason it is so odd is that Super Millions is the only lottery to exhibit such a change. Public schools that run due to that money are being forced to cut costs. Eli further deduces that Tom Mayfield is the director of Super Millions, and he is also Turnbull’s alma mater and ex-boyfriend. The firm that handled the accounting of Super Millions and UpRight was the same: Meyers and Goldstein. Eli suggests that Turnbull was embezzling the money from the lottery into her Super PAC, which was inversely affecting the public schools.
Nick, though initially skeptical of her story, comes around to believe in it after some fact-checking of his own. He tells her that they must get a whistleblower on board to publish it. He puts her in touch with a contact, Jennifer Cooke, and tells her to do her best. Not surprisingly, Jennifer refuses to do anything about it, but Eli doesn’t want to give up. She stays late and steals the information they need from a computer. However, Nick refuses to use it, as it would go against journalistic ethics. Eli is at a loss as to what to do, but luckily for her, Jennifer comes around and gives her the proof she wants, bridging the need for a whistleblower. Nick is onboard once again, and the two of them plunge into a rabbit hole of research. They find the proof for their theory and are ready for the article. But things take a turn when Eli goes to one of Nate’s parties with Lucas. She finds that the catering service they had suspected of being the cover for the embezzlement, the one owned by Dean Clifton, had been working for Nate Sterling since before he was in the race. And the twist is that they had only ever worked for him. With this information, Eli understands that they may have just missed the mark with their previous analysis. A little probing, and she comes to know that Meyers and Goldstein also handle Nate’s Super PAC, which he had made a big show of rejecting but had ultimately accepted. He had named it ‘Integrity Super PAC’ to keep it low-key. Nick questions why he would do something like that, and Eli replies that it was his shortcut. The previous year, he wasn’t on a single poll, and this time, he was one of the front-runners. There was doubt about why Tom Mayfield, who was a Republican, would participate in supporting an independent candidate, but Eli’s research game is strong, and she has the answer. She finds out that he had quit the Republican party when Reagan’s term had ended and only re-registered when Nate’s book had started featuring on the bestseller’s lists. It was all a calculated move to cover their tracks. Eli and Nick decide to follow the facts and restructure their article with their evidence once they find some.
Eli goes home and reveals everything to Lucas, asking for his help. But he rejects her idea because he is convinced that Nate is the country’s best choice for a good future, and the price they must pay now is collateral damage. Heartbroken that Lucas is not taking a stand for the oppressed, she leaves the house and goes to meet Nick. He tells her that Nate’s office will clear the proof in a matter of an hour, prompting her to go to the campaign office. Over there, she meets Nate, and even Nick joins Lucas. What follows is the extent of the compromise one can make with the greater good for the sake of personal privileges. Nate offers to get good healthcare for Eli’s father, who is suffering from cancer, as well as get her sister an honorable discharge. But Nick interjects and says that the ball is in their court, as even the allegation alone will put him out of the race.
‘The Independent’ Ending Explained: Do Eli and Nick Publish the Article?
Eli leaves and goes on to type out the article. Nick offers to keep her name out of it and do the task himself. He goes on to the rally that we saw at the beginning of the film to do so. But the twist in the tale is that Lucas had recorded the entire exchange in the campaign office, giving them the proof, they needed. So, there is no longer a need for Nick’s sacrifice.
While the day is saved there, it’s not all good. Eli’s father passes away, and she is consumed with dealing with the tragedy of it. On the other hand, Kevin tells her that he was fired from his job after he insidiously took credit for the article. This lets Eli know that “The Chronicle” would not be in favor of their story getting out due to their sponsors. She tells Nick as much, and they decide to publish it independently. Nick tells her that it is her story, but she claims that she wouldn’t have done it without his guidance. Not just that, they need Nick’s credibility for the story to gain traction. The article is published under their names, and they decide to open a news station of their own, called “The Independent,” that wouldn’t rely on money from others, keeping their allegiance to the public. And that is where the film “The Independent” ends.
Final Thoughts: What Works For The Movie ‘The Independent’?
While “The Independent” is well-written, it lacks the gritty, hard-hitting quality that is required of the genre. It also felt a little simplistic in the way that the conflict of interest was so surface level. A discussion could have been had about how the “greater good” often excludes minorities and how that remains the responsibility of the media to bring it to public attention, but the movie only vaguely points it out. Overall, “The Independent” was just okay. It did not break new ground, nor was it as interesting as it could have been. We are just okay with it, though we acknowledge that it could have been way better. Maybe there will be a better attempt in the future; we will keep our eyes open for that.
“The Independent” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Amy Rice.