If you have seen a movie or show with a journalist in it, chances are they did some pretty questionable things. They probably came unprepared for their job or breached basic journalism ethics, like fabricating a whole article. But if you’ve ever seen media with a female journalist, they’ve probably slept with their source, right?
Well, for those who believe everything they see on TV, that doesn’t really happen. The Camille Preakers and Shauna Malwae-Tweeps of the world are far and few between, but that doesn’t stop Hollywood from portraying the profession as anything less than sleazy.
Journalism is probably one profession that few people understand. There is a lot that goes into crafting an article to inform the audience and capture the attention of its readers. Research is conducted, interviews are scheduled and facts are checked. Editors make the article better, and then it’s published in its respective mediums, whether that be print or online.
Film and television don’t show all of that though. Writers and directors get a little too personal. They make the journalists these complex characters that we latch onto, but those characters make unethical decisions that almost all journalists would condemn.
This conversation came to the forefront once again with last year’s Sharp Objects on HBO. Amy Adams’ character Camille Preaker goes back to her hometown to cover the murders of children. In the show, she does most everything right. She is persistent, consults her editor and tells a truthful tale. Sure, she drinks, and she insensitively sat toward the front of a funeral service even though she was reporting. It looked like female journalists were going to get a rare positive representation — until she slept with not only one, but two of her sources.
When people start seeing those representations repeatedly, people start believing that might actually be accurate. As creators make more unethical journalists, everyday consumers will believe that to be fact. Representing the media in a more positive way is important in this era of fake news. The filmmaker’s job is not to create an accurate character, but it becomes a problem when that portrayal seeps into the mindset of its viewers.
Not all journalism films paint the media in a bad light. Take the 2015 Best Picture winner Spotlight. It showed an accurate representation of watchdog journalism, and did so in a respectful manner. In that film though, the journalists were seen as heroes.
There are two polar opposites with journalists in film and TV: They either uncover injustice (also known as superhero journalism) or they break every ethics rule in the book. There is no in between. It would be great to get a character who is a journalist who just does their job. That might not be as exciting, but it would be, as journalists say, more fair.
Georgia Davis is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Is there a profession you feel is misrepresented in film and TV? Tell Georgia by tweeting her at .