America's Fourth Estate

From Executive Producer Oliver Stone, an exploration of the intersection between media, government and the truth

The media in the U.S. It’s a powerful institution that battles for audiences day in and day out. It has the power to shape public opinion, and inform the country’s discourse. But even as journalists produce content around the clock, many argue economic interests ultimately drive the business of news, as shareholders and advertisers expect big returns on their investments.

Following in the tradition of independent investigative journalist I.F. Stone, America’s Fourth Estate asks if, when faced with these challenges, the media can still deliver the truth. It features present-day independent journalists who ask whether or not the U.S .government can rely on the media to help tell – or hide – their version of the facts. It also challenges the business of the news, questioning whether or not it can operate fairly in a climate of such fast-paced, returns-oriented competition.



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Q&A with Fred Peabody

Fred Peabody

Fred Peabody

What attracted you to the story of your film?

Myra MacPherson’s great book “All Governments Lie” inspired me to make a film covering similar ground, telling the story of the late, great American journalist I. F. Stone, who fearlessly and meticulously documented government deception for 20 years in his tiny newsletter I. F. Stone’s Weekly. He always contended that “all governments lie” and it’s up to journalists to find out when they’re lying.

Why was it important to tell this story?

The documentary shows the importance of independent journalists holding governments and corporations accountable to citizens – and that's important whether in my home country of Canada or in the United States, Russia, China, etc. At film festivals all over the world, people told me they wish they had more independent journalists like the ones we profile in the film.

What do you hope your documentary will achieve?

I hope the film will encourage young people all over the world to pursue careers as independent, investigative, adversarial journalists holding governments accountable. Societies cannot improve and solve social problems unless those problems are being identified, and that's a role for journalists.

What should we know about your filmmaking process?

I started with a basic thesis, and tried to find ways to bring it to life by filming independent journalists today who are following in I. F. Stone’s footsteps, investigating and questioning government statements rather than acting as “stenographers to power” as mainstream media reporters in many countries often do.

Did you make any unexpected discoveries while shooting?

I was pleased to discover a promising new wave of independent, investigative, adversarial journalists working in America today who are inspired by the example of the late, great I. F. Stone.

Director's Statement | Fred Peabody

This all started with my being inspired years ago by I. F. Stone, when I was a teenaged would be investigative journalist. In 2013 I became energized and inspired all over again, as I delved into a book called “The Best of I. F. Stone.”. Then Myra MacPherson’s excellent biography of Stone, “All Governments Lie” reinforced my interest. As I continued to explore, I found many other journalists and filmmakers equally inspired, some of them on the cutting edge of independent, adversarial reporting about government deception.

It struck me as a great story. A secret guru was inspiring today’s new wave of investigative journalists—a man most of the public had never heard of. And those new independent journalists were fighting the same kind of David and Goliath battle Izzy Stone did decades ago a battle for nothing less than truth and justice, in a world where the Stone quote “All governments lie” was never more apt.

It was obvious to me that a film documentary had to be made.

This is not a story set in the U.S.A. or Canada; it’s a global story.

I wanted to tell the story of these passionate independent journalists, past and present, to bring the public into their worlds, and to tell the story of this band of “muckrakers” from my own perspective. As a former investigative producer on the CBC program "the fifth estate" and on ABC's "20/20", I know how difficult it can be to uncover deception and reveal truths.

This film is a timely documentary for today’s digital -savvy viewers who increasingly seek information from independent media, and are distrustful of large, corporate media outlets. This film takes seemingly unconnected events and journalistic heroes stretching over many decades and link them together to tell an important story that will resonate with audiences in Canada and around the world.

I want to inspire others with the story of I. F. Stone’s courageous, decades-long battle against government lies, and with the more recent stories of independent journalists who are fearlessly following in Stone’s footsteps. They are the antidote and alternative to the mainstream media conglomerates that are increasingly showing their blind spots and weaknesses — and losing the public’s trust.

This film is not, however, only about independent journalism, politics and democracy. Perhaps even more importantly, it is a film about humanity and values. I want viewers to walk away remembering what I. F. Stone was trying to do:

"To write the truth as I see it; to defend the weak against the strong; to fight for justice;
and to seek, as best I can, to bring healing perspectives to bear on the terrible hates and
fears of mankind, in the hope of someday bringing about one world, in which men will
enjoy the differences of the human garden instead of killing each other over them."
I.F. Stone

This is a message that needs to be heard. This film tells a story that needs to be told.