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"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Journalism Week: Newsrooms in Entertainment

Well, Journalism Week has finally come to an end.

Pretty soon I will be in Athens, Ohio and my entire life will consist of one Journalism Week after another. But don't worry, I won't subject my readers to any more of my half-baked musings and ideas. I would like to thank you, for joining me on this magical journey though. We shared some laughs, some tears and some factual inaccuracy and it was all a good time. Now, as a reward for enduring Journalism Week, I would like to present to you, reader, a short collection of some of my favorite depictions of the Journalism industry in movies and television.

The Wire: Season 5
Truth be told, this is probably the catalyst that got Journalism Week started for me. I have been watching The Wire's final season for about a week now and have marvelled at the gritty, somewhat horrifying depiction of The Baltimore Sun's newsroom. The Wire began as a cop show but then branched out to cover all of society's flawed institutions and it is print Journalism that gets star-billing for the final season. Just like everything else in The Wire, there are good reporters, bad reporters, gray areas in-between and the always ever presence of soul-crushing and creativity-inhibiting Democracy. But what makes a good guy and a bad guy in this newsroom are very different than what makes a good guy and bad guy in other literature. In David Simon's world the good guy is simply the one who gives enough of a damn to wake up at 12:00 in the morning afraid that he may have transposed a couple of numbers making a story slightly inaccurate. And the bad guy is simply the one who tells a white lie here or there until whole stories are fabricated and the lies take on a life of their own. Gritty, powerful stuff.

All the President's Men
If modern Journalism has its version of Odysseus or Bible stories, then Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's investigation of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal are it. Woodward and Bernstein are Journalim's answer to Batman, Superman and other costumed heroes. Only instead of dressing up in tight-fitting outfits and fighting crime, they dress up in thick wool sports coats and comically 70's hair and fight corrupt Presidents. All the President's Men is a phenomonal acheivement because it shows that Journalism movies and TV shows can be exciting and intriguing. Never is a punch thrown or a bullet fired in this movie but there is action. Woodward and Bernstein follow leads, find sources, knock on doors, investigate paper trails, make phone calls, meet in dark parking garages; they are men of action and men of motion and it is a very easy watch. The story of Watergate is a familiar one now but All the President's Men is still a must-watch for any Journalist or wanna-be Journalist. Just sit back relax and let Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman show you how its done.

Shattered Glass

If I may be bold for a moment: Shattered Glass is my absolute favorite Journalism movie or tv show. There is no other way to describe this than absolutely horrifying. Remember that quaint little and easy to follow rule of Journalism, "don't lie?" Well, what happens when a compulsive and remorseless liar finds his way onto one of the most renowned political magazines in the nation? Shattered Glass answers this question and in terrifying fashion. Shattered Glass is the true story of young reporter Stephen Glass's time at The New Republic (the in-flight magazine of Air Force One, everyone likes to say in the film). The film details the eventual discovery of Glass's fraudulence and all the destrcution it brings. 27 out of 41 of Glass's stories were found to have contained false information in them and a few were even entirely made up. How does something like that happen under an editor's nose? It is simple, really: Stephen Glass is just a charming dude. Hayden Christiansen plays him as a slight effeminate and immature, yet intelligent child who turns frequently to his co-workers for their advice and their help and projects an image of constant innocence. This is a hugely underrated film and should be required viewing at every Journalism school in the country.

And finally, I have one bonus entry for you. If you can find MTV's reality show The Paper online, I highly urge you to watch it. It is clearly heavily edited, alterred and ingenuine but it is also absolutely riveting. Anyone who has ever worked on a High School paper will see more of themself in this show than they are willing to admit.

Thus concludes Journalism Week. Next week I will be writing from the jungle known as Athens, Ohio. Until then...

Good Night and Good Luck.

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