Sally Field plays Megan Carter – a Miami reporter who has been working for the city’s leading newspaper for three years.
She needs a scoop and nothing much is happening, so she decides to check into the latest developments on a case involving the mysterious disappearance of a local union boss.
Overhearing some gossip about a local liquor wholesaler whose name is being mentioned as a possible suspect in the case, she decides to print the rumour.
Paul Newman plays Gallagher – The innocent man who suddenly reads his name in the newspaper linked with a scandal that could possibly lead to a murder rap.
Before he can establish an alibi or plead ‘not guilty’, his business of 12 years is ruined by the longshoreman’s union, his reputation is smeared, and his best friend Teresa (Melinda Dillon) commits suicide.
“Do you think this is right?” he asks.
“I’m never sure what’s right,” says the reporter. “I just print the truth and let someone else figure out what’s right”.
As an honest, unvarnished close-up of journalism and how it works, Absence of Malice takes you into the heart of a big-city newspaper (Interiors were actually filmed inside the Miami Herald). It also highlights the dilemma reporters face when torn between human instinct and doing their job.
It certainly shows the hopeless frustration, confusion, and rage of the people who see their whole lives spread naked in banner headlines and gossip columns.
Megan Carter is not a villain. She’s a good reporter. Her big mistake is her eagerness to make a name for herself in a profession where the printed word can make by-line celebrities out of faceless reporters at the expense of innocent bystanders.
She’s a patsy, too, since her information has been planted by corrupt politicians to pacify an anxiety-ridden public. Her ambition leads her to front-page glory even though she didn’t check her facts or do her homework.
Her problems increase when she falls in love with the man she’s trying to expose. Mike Gallagher’s problem is clearing his name without destroying her credibility and her career.
Everybody gets hurt, and nobody walks off into a Technicolor sunset with the loose ends neatly tied together.
Anna Marie Napoles
Alfredo Alvarez Calderon