Journalism in film and television

Ever since those tender years as a budding writer, I have wanted to make journalism a career. When I grew up, I earned my diploma in journalism and got a few freelance gigs around town. And I still have the notion that when I grow up a little more, I might make a living off this dream. For now though, I have to stick with an office job and not let the reality of journalism get me down... So, I sometimes can't help but live vicariously through characters on TV and in the movies.
Regardless of whether they investigate crime, uncover campus controversy or detail their sexcapades, all journalists portrayed onscreen pull at my heart strings and remind me of what I always wanted to be. Yes, even though I am perfectly aware that the real life of a reporter is nowhere near as glamorous as they make it seem.
So as most writers do, I made a list (in no particular order) of some of my favourite portrayals of journalists in television and the movies.

-Almost Famous
A dream for writers, and non-writers alike, is to tour with the hottest rock band on assignment for Rolling Stone Magazine. This Cameron Crowe film gets down to the nitty-gritty and shows what kind of conflict a writer can run into when befriending the subject and appeasing the editor. The reporter is William, an aspiring music journalist nicknamed "the enemy" by the fictitious rock band that he tours with, documenting every dirty detail of life on the road. After their travels, he has a feature published in the famous magazine and lives up to his nickname as they are none-too pleased by his brutal honesty.

This film is awesome, creepy and fascinating. It's the adaptation of Truman Capote's real life quest to uncover the story of  two killers and describe the events that led to their murdering a Kansas family in 1959. Capote became interested in pursuing the story after reading a short article in the New York Times. He travelled to the small town and stayed as long as he needed so he could interview every possible connection to the family. This is a story of a journalist's total immersion into a story and Philip Seymour Hoffman is perfect in the role of the eccentric writer. Capote's novel, In Cold Blood, was released in four editions of The New Yorker. It's an excellent read by the way, and I will post that book review in the future.

-Sex and the City
Carrie Bradshaw had the dream job of many young females (writers or not). She used her own personal events and those of her friends to provide insight on life as a single woman in New York. She was known for her opening voice-over reading from her own sex column. Although not deep, it was hopeful, like in episode 316: "In a city where cynism is as prevalent as pashmina, there is nothing more hopeful than getting ready for a first date." And, ever observant like episode 111: "New York City is all about sex. People getting it. People trying to get it. And people who can't get it. No wonder the city never sleeps. It's too busy trying to get laid." It's simple, relatable and a fun way to write.

-Beverly Hills 90210
Although this wasn't the central point of the show, there was a lot of focus on the high school paper, West Beverly Blaze and subsequently The Condor during the college years.  This is what trains you for the big show - finding that story that will get the campus talking. How can I forget when Brandon Walsh covered a sports story so exclusive that the Associated Press couldn't even land an interview. As all happy endings go, the college kid had his football story printed in newspapers across the country - so heart-warming.

-All the President's Men
Probably the best known and simply, the best journalism film. It's the story of two reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who were assigned to what was thought to be just another court story for The Washington Post. Through a series of events, threats and mystery sources, the dream team uncovered that little story best known as the Watergate scandal. Their investigation into Watergate, led to the resignation of a disgraced President Richard Nixon. This film is all about hyper-investigation, loyalty to anonymous sources and ultimately, uncovering the truth to the public.

-How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Andie is a How-To girl for a leading women's magazine in New York City but all she wants to do is break into subjects that are important her like politics, religion and economics. Unfortunately she's stuck in a rut at the Cosmo-like mag. For her next article, she finds herself not only dating a guy but also trying to lose him as research for ladies who perpetually drive men away. This is a fluffy rom-com with little actual journalism but it's still fun to see how her assignment unfolds.

-Frost / Nixon
This is the film version of the real, truthful, honest and lucky interview that British journalist David Frost did with a disgraced former U.S. President Richard Nixon. Few journalists have succeeded in conducting this type of brutal honesty, because the trick is in the research. It's about immersing yourself into the subject. I've seen many television interviewers attempt to get the juice in a number of interviews and it is painful to watch when the preparedness isn't there. This film portrays the length Frost went to prepare himself for any turn the interview could take while maintaining its control as the interviewer.

-Marley and Me
This is a serendipitous stories about a man complaining about his dog since he has nothing else to fill the column space. The film is based on the memoir of John Grogan who wrote true tales of dog ownership which became a hit across the US. In the film version, we see Grogan attempting to break into beat reporting but it's the column about Marley that puts him in the spotlight.

-A Mighty Heart
This is the film adaptation of the memoir by Mariane Pearl as she recounts the events following the disappearance of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Back in 2002, Pearl was on assignment in Pakistan when he was taken and subsequently killed by supporters of an infamous Pakistani-British terrorist. This film underlines the dangers journalists face when reporting from states where instability and corruption runs rampant.

You have to give props to Veronica Corningstone for her tenacity in a 1970s male-dominated newsroom. As the newest addition to the all-male news team led by the legendary Ron Burgundy, she has to prove herself and take whatever assignment is thrown at her - the first one is a kitten fashion show which she begrudgingly accepts, but totally owns. She takes arrogant and sexist remarks in stride and eventually lands in the co-anchor chair, much to the chagrin of the machismo Burgundy.

-Nothing but the Truth
This is a film adaptation based on true events about the case of Washington D.C. reporter, Judith Miller. In 2005, Miller faced a possible jail sentence for her determination to protect her source in a controversial story covering an assassination attempt on the President of the United States. Standing her ground and her rights as a journalist, Miller refused to reveal the name of the person who was then thought to be a threat to national security. The case was taken to federal court and though she could have revealed this person to regain her freedom, Miller maintained her rights. I won't give away the little twist in the end but for the curious, a spoiler is provided on the film's Wikipedia page.

Yet to see:

-The Newsroom
I still haven't seen an episode but I'm pumped about this show depicting behind-the-scenes events in a newsroom.

-Good Night, Good Luck
I own the Edward Murrow biography but I have yet to read it. Once complete, I'll watch the film about the guy who revolutionized radio reporting.

This is a movie (and musical) with a cult following about the New York City newsboy strike of 1899.

-His Girl Friday
High on my list of must-sees, this classic is a "rapid-fire dialogue" film starring Cary Grant who plays an editor chasing down his ex-wife reporter who has settled into family life.

-Citizen Kane
It was voted best film in history, so there's no question everyone must watch it. The story is about the death of a media tycoon and a reporter’s investigation into his personal life.

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