Journalism: Hollywood Edition

by: Makayla Marrs

Photo by Thomas Charters on Unsplash

Hollywood film producers create talented films that portray a wide variety of subjects, one being journalism. Few works actually do justice to the reality of the harsh and chaotic profession, while overlooking important issues such as lack of representation of women and people of color, and highlighting toxic gender stereotypes in the workforce. In The Paper, The Newsroom, and His Girl Friday, Hollywood interprets journalists to be cunning and exploitative, the runners in a race that have their eyes on the prize (being the best story), and the gallant victors defying the status quo of bestowing the truth upon the public by considering the main characters in the shows and films, and why they are pursuing a story. Whilst the profession is the main focus, you can’t help but notice the overplayed idea that is the inferiority of women to men in all of these films, and how women are all seen as helpless, less skilled or act secondary to their male counterparts to accentuate the idea of a strong and in-charge man.

In The Paper, we can see how the competitiveness of the journalist is the leading facet of journalism, which looks to be the biggest forms of motivation that a journalist has. The main character, Henry competes with the other newspapers and also even with the very people he works with just to put his story out on the front page, beating everyone to it. Henry has a more honorable story than the other stories that are going around. In the very start of this film, his goal is to be producing content for the best paper, share the story before the source that he stole the idea from and publish their story the following day. This action that drives him through the movie, to win and beat the other papers to the punch, beat his own partners at work, builds up this idea that even though a journalist can be striving hardly towards revealing the whole truth, his personal motives conflict with the good intentions every good journalist should have, getting the story out to the public, the ethical way.

In the show The Newsroom, the first episode, Will McAvoy the main character and lead news anchor, had a freak-out at a young college student during a discussion at Northwestern University, which drew him back from the public eye as a new reporter who didn’t step on anyone’s toes, to becoming a man with real opinions about things he truly cares about, that people were just not ready to here. McAvoy is furious with his boss Charlie Skinner for choosing to hire Mackenzie McHale, Will’s ex, leading to the heated conflict of her arrival at the station as his new executive producer, with her image being corrupt due to the personal and intimate history she has with Will. He blames Mackenzie for his media outburst and potential demise as now he feels vulnerable due to her being brought in to fix his career, and improve the news broadcast since his whole team left him. Will hesitantly allows Mackenzie to act as executive producer with the agreement that he can fire her ending every week’s broadcast, if he thinks she messes up in any way he deems unfit, which is a stroke of his male persona being the one who makes more money and has a higher authority than her, in doing so by changing her contract over her head.

In comparison with The Paper, Mackenzie somewhat blends in with the female lead character Alicia in The Paper, although Mackenzie is not seen as aggressive like Alicia, more passionate and lets her morals drive her decisions (which a journalist should take into consideration). McAvoy and MacHale end up working on the same team in an attempt to put out a breaking news coverage of an oil spill, hoping to publicize the importance to the public and reinstate Will’s credit as a news reporter. On the other hand, Alicia and Henry were far from able to be on the same page let alone work together on the same story, it took Alicia the entirety of the film to have time to rethink her actions. Mackenzie isn’t the stereotypical flawed working woman who comes off as an ice queen. Instead, she comes off as lonely, and wanting love. Which contributes to the adverse stereotype of how working class women can’t have steady income and successful relationships because they can only be truly focused on either their career or their love life.

Finally, the film His Girl Friday is a collaboration of perspectives from both The Newsroom and The Paper. Walter Burns specifies that journalism can be a journey towards revealing the cold hard truth, but also a game of rivalry and seduction. Hildy Johnson, the lead female character, is aiming to figure out the truth in the story she comes across whilst writing a brief interview before heading to her wedding the next day. It seems that she is introduced like how the journalists are in The Paper, fiending for the almost addictive rivalry and unearthing of crime, but by the end of the film, Hildy shifts her motive over to the aspect of uncovering the truth as similarly does The Newsroom, regardless of what the permutations are.

The idea that we get about journalists from these works, is the possibility of ending up in either two divisions of journalism. It is to either seek the knowledge and reveal the needed truth to the public at which in this case, justifies whatever the means may be. The other would be to obstruct the public’s request to interpret and notice the events occurring right in front of them or just out of view. This idea that Hollywood not only produces journalism in films and shows, but they rely on stereotypes, conforming to the ideal roles that predominantly white men must hold in order to uphold the image that is deemed ‘normal’ in the media.

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Makayla Marrs

Makayla Marrs

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