I’ve picked up the Special Edition DVD and watched it again. New questions and topics for debate.
Superficially, we’re led to believe that Kane started his journalistic career full of idealism but gradually succumbed to the seductions of power. His friend, Jed Leland, was supposedly disillusioned by this decline of Kane’s morals.
But consider what we saw actually happen. On his first day on the job, Kane is seen knowingly making up a story about a missing woman by falsely accusing her husband of murdering her. Jed doesn’t argue against Kane’s actions; in fact, he gleefully helps him. Then a few hours later, they piously print Kane’s Declaration of Principles about how they want to give honest news to the working man. Obviously, any journalistic and personal ethics that Kane (and Leland) may have started with had disappeared long before the Chronicle reporters joined the staff.
In my opinion, the real issue that divided Kane and Leland was Emily. In the film, it’s hinted that Jed knew Emily before Kane did and was close to her. In the original movie trailer (which the DVD includes) this is explicitly stated; Jed introduced Emily to Kane. Given his apparent happiness when their engagement is announced, it doesn’t appear Jed had any personal longing for Emily or jealousy about Kane’s marriage to her. But when Kane betrays Emily for Susan, Jed is shocked. When he confronts Kane shortly thereafter, Jed’s main argument is that Kane doesn’t understand love; a strange point to make in what is, on the surface, an argument about Kane’s political failure. And unlike Mr Bernstein, Jed remains bitter towards Susan for the rest of his life.