Fade to black, and then again with the eerily lit oak panel of stone-faced men in suits. They conclude that Senator Hammond was killed by Joseph Frady. “There is no evidence of a conspiracy. This is an announcement gentleman. There will be no questions.”

In the end, the truth dies with Frady. No story is ever written. The sinister Parallax Corporation continues to operate in surprisingly conspicuous quarters, churning out assassins. All of Frady’s risk-taking and hard work seem not to have mattered—it’s an even bleaker picture, in terms of journalistic efficacy, than the existential crisis that grips the business today. Do we matter? Maybe not.

But Pakula’s message is not an indictment of the journalist, but of the machine and the power structures the poor hack is up against. Pakula made this film in what was something of a golden era of journalism, when people had far more faith in the press than in politicians and their official narratives. Be wary of the powerful. Be wary of the corporate. Be wary of worn-out editors who have gotten too comfortable in the newsroom.

And yet, sometimes the good guys lose. Whereas journalists are triumphant truth-tellers in All the President’s Men, in The Parallax View the journalist is a tragic hero on a lonely—and, as it happens, futile—quest for truth in a world that won’t allow it. Indeed, it was a reflection of the times. While much of the Watergate story had been unraveled on the front page of The Washington Post by the time The Parallax View was released, it wasn’t until later that summer, when Nixon resigned, that journalism ultimately prevailed.

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Erika Fry is a former assistant editor at CJR.