In a way, it’s fortunate that Stephen Glass made up his stories and got caught when he did. He fabricated upwards of 30 stories for The New Republic in an age when the internet couldn’t really get ahold of him and run with it. If he had done the same thing ten years down the line, he could have done irreparable damage to the publication. People look for reasons to resent publications (look at Kotaku, for example) and a bunch of made up stories is as good of a reason as any.
Anyways, the primary take of “Shattered Glass” is that everyone is a whole lot better off if you don’t lie in everything you write. This only becomes more true as time goes on. Regardless of how many people you fool with phony stories, there’s always going to be at least one skeptic that looks in to your content. It’s constantly getting easier to fact check things as well. Search engines are now the base of the internet, and what could be considered the most cursory of searches today could have stopped Glass long before he could do the damage that he did. So when you make things up, you’ll get caught, your publication will get in trouble, your friends and peers will catch hell for not realizing it, and journalism will look bad as a whole. When something of this nature happens, it reflects poorly on everyone.
Another takeaway is that you should be more skeptical of the stories you read and hear, as if you’re not constantly finding new reasons to do that as it is. As mentioned earlier, EVERYONE looks bad if someone pushes BS through your publication, even if you had nothing to do with it. In “Shattered Glass,” Stephen Glass looked bad, both editors looked bad, even the guy in the sweater who didn’t really have a presence in the movie at all until they wrote the apology letter looked bad. They might not have been able to look too deeply into source material in the ’90s, but anyone can today, and it’s the best idea for everyone involved.
The final, and potentially most important, takeaway is that you just cannot trust Hayden Christensen’s characters at all. First, we thought he was the chosen one, and you know how that turned out? With a bunch of dead younglings and no Alderaan. He literally blew up a planet for information that he didn’t even get from Leia. Information that, if we learned anything from “Shattered Glass,” he could have totally just made up. Everyone would have gone on with it until Emperor Palpatine got fired and a new emperor came in and realized that the rebels weren’t actually on Dantooine, but instead on one of the Yavins or something.