10 MOVIES YOU SHOULDN’T SHOW YOUR KIDS UNLESS YOU WANT THEM TO GROW UP TO BE JOURNALISTS
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be reporters. The hours are long, the rewards are slim, the industry’s dying, and the coffee is terrible. And yet, American pop culture has a long-standing love affair with the heroic journalist, from Clark Kent to the dogged reporters of Spotlight. By Joanna Robinson http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/photo
- •Almost Famous, 2000Perhaps the most insidious film of all for an impressionable youth is this film, where the journalist himself is an impressionable youth. There’s heartbreak and frustration and exhaustion galore in this movie. There are doubtful, cynical editors and slippery subjects. All this is as accurate as you would expect from a movie based on Cameron Crowe’s own experiences on the road.
- •Spotlight, 2015In a recent interview with NPR about Spotlight, real-life newspaperman Walter Robinson (played by Michael Keaton in the film) said, “I guess I’d have to say that most films about journalism don’t get it right. I’m just delighted, as are my colleagues, that this film just nailed it. . . . How making the sausage isn’t always a pleasant task to watch.”
- •All the President's Men, 1976The idea that a journalist could take down a president all the while looking as dashing as Robert Redford? That’s the ultimate journalism fantasy, isn’t it? The life of the journalist isn’t all perfectly trimmed sideburns and cloak-and-dagger parking-lot encounters—more often, it’s three days of stubble and stale coffee. The opportunity to take down a corrupt president? Sure, it could happen. But, more likely, you’ll find yourself GIF-capping the latest antics of a corrupt president on Scandal.
- •Broadcast News, 1987There’s a lot to be wary of in the realm of journalism on display in Broadcast News. Uncontrollable crying jags, embarrassing flop sweat, and, most devastating of all, compromised integrity. But there’s also enough moral fortitude and genuine optimism in the movie to put stars in the eyes of any up-and-comer. So if you have to show your kids this movie, maybe just have them re-watch that scene of Albert Brooks’s on-air meltdown over and over and over again.
- •Deadline - U.S.A., 1952When they coined the phrase “crusading reporter,” they might as well have been talking about Humphrey Bogart’s Ed Hutcheson, the heroic managing editor of the failing publication The Day. There are some parts of this film that may throw cold water on the foolish notion of entering the journalistic field. By the end of the movie, Hutcheson’s paper gets sold out from under him because he’s unwilling to compromise his morals just to sell copies.
- •Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998If there are any drug-addled gonzo journalists still roaming the desert highways and ruminating on culture, counterculture, and the death of the American Dream, please let me know. For the most part, though, young journalists are more likely to find themselves traversing the informational superhighway with some sort of over-caffeinated beverage as their drug of choice. So don’t let the coolness of Johnny Depp and Hunter S. Thompson fool you.
- •His Girl Friday, 1940If an impressionable youth in your life starts yammering away a mile a minute, donning jaunty hats and running low-level schemes all for the greater good, then you know they might have gotten their hands on a copy of His Girl Friday. The film does a good job of showing how being married to your journalism job can ruin a relationship, but this being a classic comedy plot of re-marriage, it all works out for Hildy, the reporter, and Walter, the editor, in the end.
- •State of Play, 2003There is maybe no story about journalism more perfect than the U.K. version of State of Play. Not technically a movie, but the 2003 mini-series tells the tale of murder, corrupt politicians, and evil oil billionaires spools out slowly over the course of six hours. The glory of triumphing over political and industry pressures? Not easy. Just ask Bill Simmons.
- •Frost/Nixon, 2008Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein weren’t the only ones to tackle Richard Nixon. Some of the glory also belongs to England’s David Frost. Played with slick-haired charm by Michael Sheen, the film shows just how rewarding 29 hours spent interrogating a president can be. But that was 1977. You’d be hard-pressed now to find a TV journalist who could get even nine hours with a president.
- •Sex and the City, 1998-2004Okay this last one isn’t even close to being a movie, but it’s important. Until she gets hired by Vogue at the end of Season 4, Carrie Bradshaw is living off what some have estimated is around $1,200 a month for her weekly column. So shield your child’s eyes from this especially dangerous show. No, not because of the sexual content, but because of the crushing debt that will greet the next generation should they try to take on Carrie’s cigarette-Cosmo-shoe-brunch habit on a journalist’s salary.