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The Movie the Soloist Essay with Nathaniel Ayers

Updated on April 21, 2012

This film was a great example of feature journalism. Steve Lopez, who is a real person who actually wrote these stories on Nathaniel Ayers, shows me what characteristics I need to possess in order to be a better journalist. From the beginning of the movie, it is clear that he works at his job all the time. When you’re a journalist I think that your career becomes your life because you are writing about the world you live in and that affects you as well as an uncountable amount of people.

In the beginning of the film, Lopez gets into a very dangerous bike accident and ends up in the hospital. However injured he is, he still is doing his job and is seen scribbling on a notepad about what he is witnessing in the hospital. Whatever situation he is placed in, he makes the best out of it in order to get the most interesting story possible.

When Nathaniel Ayers enters the story, sitting by a statue and playing a two-stringed violin, Lopez is immediately drawn in. Why? Because here is a homeless man who is talented. That is all he knows about Ayers at that moment in time. When Ayers mentions that he trained at Juilliard in the seventies, Lopez thinks that he’s found his story. How interesting is a man who went to what one could argue is the best music school in the country and is now homeless?

Steve Lopez demonstrates his excellent journalist characteristics when he immediately goes back to the office and calls Juilliard to see if anyone named Nathaniel Ayers had ever enrolled there. He is a fact checker. This is one of the most important ethics that you cannot break. You must be accurate.

As the film continues, Steve Lopez realizes that Nathaniel Ayers is a very interesting subject. He discovers that Ayers actually did attend Juilliard, and had to drop out in his second year because of the increasing difficulties of a mental disease called Schizophrenia. The story of Nathaniel Ayers is extremely newsworthy because this is a man who went to Juilliard because of his incredible talent, dropped out, and is now homeless. He’s unlike any other musician because of his mental disorder, which also makes the story out of the ordinary. This story screams novelty. It’s also proximate because Nathaniel Ayers is living right in Los Angeles, where the story is being published.

Lopez continues to visit Ayers in the subway where he plays his violin, as well as in the park where he originally met him. After the first feature is published, a woman finds Ayers very deserving of her cello, that she no longer plays. She sends the cello to Lopez, and he then passes it on to Ayers. This is about the moment when Lopez and Ayers become friends, and some may consider Lopez violating the ethics principal that states impartiality, or don’t cover what you’re too close or connected to. There is a scene when Lopez actually brings Ayers to watch an orchestra, and Lopez is amazed by the love and passion Nathaniel has for music.

It is possible to think that Steve Lopez is violating the ethics principal of decency, which states that one should never betray a source. Does Nathaniel Ayers really know what Steve Lopez is writing, or how he is using his personal life to service the public? The fact that Nathaniel refers to Steve as “god” several times in the movie can be seen as a clear indication that Nathaniel doesn’t view Steve as a reporter.

In the scene where Lopez arranges an apartment for Nathaniel to live in, it is clear that Lopez probably crossed the boundary of covering what he is too close to. However, I don’t believe that Lopez was acting out of greed for a story, or using Nathaniel to move him up in the ranks at the paper. The scene where Lopez is in the hospital, completely breaking down because he thinks Nathaniel may have been beaten to death in the bad neighborhood he sleeps in, distinctly identifies Lopez as a person who genuinely cares for Ayers.

Still, though, Lopez’s ex-wife and boss, a bit drunkenly, says that Lopez is using Ayers. Instead of going along with her thoughts, and believing that Lopez was being unethical because of breaking the rules of decency and impartiality, at that moment I felt he was breaking the ethic of independence- don’t be pressured to cover something. Maybe his boss/ex-wife continued to pressure him into writing these articles and that’s why she laughingly said that Lopez was using Ayers.

In the end, my mind was made up about whether or not Steve Lopez was breaking the laws of ethics in order to cover the stories of Nathaniel Ayers. He most definitely did not ever act out of self-indulgence or greed. He’s a journalist. His job is to find a good story, and he did. In the process, he happened to save someone’s life and put them on a road to a better future. Steve Lopez should be commended on his work.


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