....There, I said it. With all due respect to the late and great Mr. Newman, of course. This movie had it all- attractive leading actors, a glaring display of rampant violation of media ethics- what more could you want in a film? What I have to say about it is essentially probably the same as what everyone else has said, but you can hear me out if you wish. Where to begin?
Obviously, Megan blatantly disregarded many ethical dilemmas that cropped up during her experiences. But to me, it wasn't intentional. I'm guessing the character background for Megan is that she isn't educated in the ways of journalism. Most likely, someone like her in real life would have gotten her job because of her "nose for news," her looks, or if the hiring news agency was corrupt and couldn't see/didn't care that she lacked a complete sense of ethics. The paper she worked for actually appeared to be this way, since no one tried to stop her unsubstantiated stories. The editor could have stopped her and taught her a thing or two about ethics, but he didn't. Shame on him. (I forget, did he have a crush on her?) It seems that the only idea the newspaper and Megan had about good journalism was being able to sniff out a good story. (I think she also wanted to prove that she could handle meaty stories because she was a woman in the newsroom in the '80s.) I did admire Meg's passion, eye for news, dedication, and her persistence, however. I certainly wouldn't mind having those qualities as a potential journalist. But they do not comprise the core of a good journalist. A good journalist seeks (first and foremost) truth, is responsible, honest, and unbiased-- qualities which I think, are concomitant with ethics. Unfortunately, Meg had to learn this the hard way.
In the first place, she shouldn't have given into the setup provided by the D.A. That was wrong on two levels: first of all, it was classified information, second it was an unsubstantiated claim- mere speculation. Second of all, she (and the rest of the stupid paper) ran a one-sided story with one anonymous source. Sigh. And of course, to clear Gallagher, she ran the information that Ms. Perrone gave about her abortion. True, Meg never said it was "off the record," but she could have just as easily published the story with anonymous sources like she did with the first story! Oh, and of course, there's the getting "involved" with a source issue that screwed everything up even more. I'm sure Gallagher was hard to resist, but come on! But I'm sure we all knew it was coming. Also, she didn't even think twice about wearing a wire when she interviewed Gallagher. So many violations, so little time.
As far as "getting it right," I think, in the very end, Meg did, somewhat. Though she still wasn't fully educated on journalism ethics, she appeared to have a grasp of it at the end. At the trial, she protects the identity of the guy in the strike force (can't remember his name) who showed her the file with the photos of Gallagher. Also, at the very end, she verbalizes to Gallagher that she did her job badly. I think that shows that she has learned some sense of ethics, one way or another. And that's all I've got.
P.S. Wilford Brimley, the actor who played the attorney, is totally my third cousin. You are all jealous.