PBS released early this year a documentary centered on Hispanic journalist Ruben Salazar. The documentary, Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle is a fittingly titled presentation. That is because it discusses the interconnection of his own personal life and of his life as an influential journalist. The most important aspect of this program is that unlike so many others of its ilk, it doesn’t waste time going through his entire childhood and his adult life. Rather, it focuses primarily on his short adult life. The use of newspaper articles, interviews and video footage to aid the story’s illustration adds another layer of interest to the overall story. And last but not least, the entire approximately hour-long presentation runs chronologically. It follows Salazar’s rise through the ranks of the journalism world through his untimely death in 1970. Each of these factors by themselves provides their own value to this presentation. Together, they make Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle a feature well worth watching by anyone with any interest in history and in the history of journalism.
Far too often, documentaries on the lives of important and influential figures tend to focus on the entire lives of said figures. In some cases, going into such depth is necessary to help viewers understand how those figures became who they were and are. In others, it’s not so necessary. The case of Ruben Salazar is one in which the subject’s entire life story was not needed. And thankfully documentarian Phillip Rodriguez realized this, too opting instead to focus primarily on the events that would eventually lead him to become the figure that so many have come to know today. This approach saves plenty of time without losing any of the most important information about Salazar’s importance both culturally and in the business of journalism.
The story of Ruben Salazar’s rise to notoriety and his untimely and still unsolved death is by itself rather interesting both for its cultural value and because of how that cultural importance played into his professional life. The tie in to the civil rights movement of the day makes Salazar’s story even more intriguing. As if that isn’t enough, the inclusion of actual footage and newspapers from the now much discussed events leading up to his death make the overall presentation even richer for viewers. They, along with the interviews with those closest to Salazar and the controversy raised by his allegations against the LAPD make for even more intrigue. They collectively will leave viewers wanting to do even more of their own research, trying to get answers for themselves due to the depth of the information shared by all three together.
The information shared by the included interviews, footage and interviews does an applause-worthy job of complimenting Phillip Rodriguez’s presentation in this program. The positives don’t stop here. There is still one remaining aspect of Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle that viewers will appreciate in the overall presentation. That final factor is the program’s organization. Audiences will note that the events leading up to Salazar’s mysterious death are presented in fully chronological order. Presenting the events leading up to his death in this manner makes the program simple to follow. Believe it or not, there are those documentaries that have a tendency to jump randomly from one point to another through the course of their presentations even today. Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle isn’t one of those documentaries. And because it doesn’t follow that model it makes all of the interviews and the story itself contained on this disc truly valuable as a piece not only of journalism history but of cultural history, too.
Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=32759016&cp=&kw=ruben+salazar&origkw=Ruben+Salazar&sr=1. More information on this and other releases from PBS is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.