Occasionally I let myself wonder whatever happened to the journalist hero in the movies. My wistfulness doesn’t usually last long. There never were a lot of journalist heroes in the movies.
No, most of the time, anybody connected to any news outlet in a movie or show is … well, scum. They’re obnoxious, sweaty little pests at best; bullies wielding the First Amendment like a shield in general; destructive abusers who’ll crush anybody for a story most of the time.
The thing is, I honestly wanted to write something here about good fictional journalists, but there really aren’t a lot of those in the film world. I’m not sure whether I find it troubling or encouraging that all of the great journalist-hero movies I can think of off the top of my head are based on real people.
Maybe it’s appropriate that it makes me feel conflicting things. The best journalism is nuanced, after all. Perhaps the subject of the journalist hero should make me feel ambivalent.
There is one fictional reporter I like a lot – Ben Urich, the crime reporter for the New York Bulletin in Marvel’s Daredevil. Ben’s not perfect. He’s cynical as hell and is, in some measure, a grittier, wearier version of Sgt. Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon. But he’s an ethical man, motivated to do the right thing. He’s brave, if not necessarily kind; methodical, even if he’s trying to divorce himself from the demands of a thankless job. But however you slice it, I’d love to have Ben Urich in my newsroom.
Past him, though, the great movie journos are actual journos, in movies based on real people and events – the Boston Globe team of Spotlight; Woodward and Bernstein of All the President’s Men; Edward R. Murrow of Good Night and Good Luck.
And maybe that’s the way it should be …. A reality in which fictional depictions of reporters and editors can’t compare to the reality about those of us who (gasp!) do our part to keep the lights on for those who think ill of us or won’t even appreciate what we do.
After all, we don’t do this job to be your friend. We do it because we’re against your enemies.
Subscribe below and follow me on Twitter @byscottmorgan