Journalists are many things in American film.
There’s the dignified leader, the quick-witted lush and the romantic.
At least two superheroes hid their secret identities with the help of gainful employment at newsrooms. And Neve Campbell’s character in “Scream” might have been a goner if not for that reporter title.
Films have immortalized real-life reporters whose lives ended tragically in search of a story: Daniel Pearl in “A Mighty Heart” and Veronica Guerin in the 2003 movie of the same name.
But we’ve also been portrayed as obnoxious scenery there to harass, manipulate and look pretty in order to get ahead.
Take Katie Holmes’ turn as a Washington reporter in the 2006 film “Thank You for Smoking.” Say what you will about Holmes portraying a journalist in the first place, but after her character exposed the tobacco lobby for what it was only with the most suspect tactics at her disposal, she managed to make big tobacco almost warm and fuzzy by comparison.
When surveys from The Pew Research Center say 54 percent of people believe most of what they read in newspapers and only 47 percent think news organizations help protect democracy, we have a bit of an image problem.
A slew of journalism-related films have reflected that image or contributed to it. Here’s a small sampling:
Where do I sign up for J-school?
•“All the President’s Men,” 1976
Described as “newspaper-men” on the Internet Movie Database, Woodward and Bernstein are tantamount to statesmen by the end of the film, and it remains an ode to the ideal journalist.
•“The Paper,” 1994
If you’re a print reporter working in a newsroom, you are a character in this movie. Granted, they aren’t always good — the boy’s club, the hypochondriac in need of every ergonomic desk tool, the paranoid, the workaholic, the witch — but you get the feeling they like what they do, and do some good while doing it.
•“Almost Famous,” 2000
Who wouldn’t want to be a teenager on tour with a band that lands him a cover story on Rolling Stone magazine?
•“Good Night, and Good Luck,” 2005
Edward R. Murrow, with sound logic and civil eloquence, holds authority to task nightly.
Aw shucks, those reporters are so cute
•“Broadcast News,” 1987
Everyman broadcast reporter Albert Brooks is one of three in a newsroom love triangle
•“Crocodile Dundee,” 1986
That’s right, the blonde that falls for Mick Dundee — a reporter.
•“I Love Trouble,” 1994
Nick Nolte, veteran Chicago newspaper columnist, falls for the young upstart at the competing newspaper, Julia Roberts. Hilarity ensues when the two try to unmask the conspiracy behind a seemingly innocuous train derailment.
•“Up Close and Personal,” 1996
Robert Redford, veteran broadcaster, falls for young upstart Michelle Pfeiffer after he assumes the role of mentor.
Bah. The media
•“Meet John Doe,” 1941
Frank Capra wasn’t exactly kind to reporters in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” One reporter is a friendly drunk without hope. But the entire premise of “Meet John Doe” revolves around a newspaper reporter who prints a fake letter from a John Doe who threatens to commit suicide. The newspaper becomes the conductor of lies, reeling in more readers before paying someone to impersonate the fake letter writer.
Interesting that it was released the same year as “All the President’s Men,” since it was a cutting commentary on the future of broadcast news as entertainment.
•“Shattered Glass,” 2003
Hayden Christensen may not have his Darth Vader mask on in this movie, but his portrayal of real-life fabricating reporter Stephen Glass is no less pathological.
•“Thank You for Smoking,” 2006
Katie Holmes sleeps with her tobacco lobbyist source to get the story.