The Real Truth About Journalism
As a young boy, I had many different plans for when I grew up. As I grew older, I began to realize that not all of them were particularly realistic. My parents refused to cooperate with my plans to become Batman. Star Fleet would probably not exist in my lifetime, and even becoming an astronaut required military service and more training than I was capable of tolerating. Even my career of Mad Scientist became a pipe dream when I went to a science exhibit and saw the miserable state of modern robotics.
One of the few avenues left open to me was that of the intrepid reporter. Television and movies always portrayed journalists as an exciting and adventurous profession: seekers of Truth who were active at all hours and would go to any length or expense to get their story. Journalists could go anywhere, take down criminal empires, and in some cases even meet Superman!
Unfortunately, in this instance, movies set up false expectations. For example, it has always been a dream of mine to finish writing a big scoop moments before deadline, so that I could run into the building waving it around and yell "Stop the presses!," just like Gonzo did in The Great Muppet Caper . Sadly, the modern era does not want to be cooperative. The printing presses are rarely in the same building as the editorial staff, and even if they were, security would probably frown on freelancers running through the printing room. Also, since I'm a blogger who works for an online publication, there aren't any presses to stop. I halfheartedly tried yelling "Stop the Internet!" before submitting this article, but it just wasn't the same.
In movies, the most exciting part of a reporter's job always seemed to be going undercover. In order to get the dirt on a criminal organization or crooked warden, the fearless journalist must assume another identity and go deep into dangerous territory. Who could resist the lure of posing as a mental patient to solve a murder, like Peter Breck did in Shock Corridor? This isn't nearly as easy as film makes it out to be. For one, I am not a good actor and am kind of funny looking. I don't think I could pull off pretending to be a hardened prisoner or out-of-town hitman. If there is corruption going on at a comic book convention, I'm your man, but otherwise, the undercover work is probably best left to the professionals.
Another illusion that the movies have perpetuated is that of a reporter's innate sense of timing and coincidence. When you watch journalists in a film, they never seem to do any actual research; they are always right where they need to be to get that big story. Whether it's the scene of a crime, an unfortunate accident, or Godzilla rising from out of the ocean, the intrepid reporter is always exactly in the center of the action. Again, reality intrudes on my film-based fantasies. I never seem to be on the scene when a bank is getting robbed or a villain's plans get thwarted by a masked vigilante. If I want that big story, I will have to do my own research and run down my own leads. That is exactly what I intend to do, right after I am done re-watching His Girl Friday .
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