Movies on Reporters: Heroes in Print, Zeroes on TV

Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi noticed with the new Woody Allen flick "Scoop" the obvious trend in movies featuring journalists: the print specialists get all the plum roles, and the TV journalists get the pits:

As a general rule, when a story calls for a journalist to do something serious or important -- solve a murder, expose wrongdoing, spring an innocent man, etc. -- you can count on seeing a print reporter at the center of the story, not a TV journalist, says Joe Saltzman, a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.

Saltzman, himself a former TV journalist, has done enough reporting to say this with authority. He's director of the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture project at USC, which maintains a database of some 46,000 items (films, TV shows, books, etc.) about fictional journalists.

There are, of course, exceptions to the print-vs.-TV-reporter rule. Most famously, "Citizen Kane" (1941) portrays its title character, a newspaperman, as ruthless and tragic (although Charles Foster Kane is a newspaper publisher, not a reporter). Last year's "Good Night, and Good Luck" practically puts its subject, TV newsman Edward R. Murrow, on Mount Rushmore.

The one that really sticks out in my memory (not listed by Farhi) is William Atherton's annoying TV reporter in "Die Hard."

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