I have to believe that we are not working in a dying industry. The world will always have a need for professional journalists — edited, ethical, and responsible, etc. etc. etc.
This is an exciting field to work in, and there are actually some great movies out there made about our vocation. Here are my top 10:
10. Citizen Kane
“Citizen Kane” portrays newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst in the yellow journalism era. This is an oldie, but it is widely considered the best movie ever made. If you haven’t seen it, get off your ass and pick it up. It’s an American treasure.
“You provide the prose. I’ll provide the war.”
9. Thank You for Smoking
“Thank You for Smoking” is a raw, sometimes dark comedy, but it is one of the best films I’ve ever seen that deals with public relations head-on. Sure “Wag the Dog” is a better movie, but “Thank You for Smoking” is an effective comedy that deeply delves into the science of selling and spinning.
8. Shattered Glass
Eeep. The true story of the rise and fall of Stephen Glass is the working journalist’s equivalent of a dude watching a real douchebag get kicked in the nuts. It’s hard to watch, but oddly satisfying.
Two reasons: First, we watch this 25-year-old kid make ridiculous sums of money — more money than most of us. Then we see that his stories were lies and fabrications. Cue the hatred.
But seriously, if you’re looking for a movie about journalism, sometimes the best stories are the true ones.
7. The Front Page
A lot of people overlook this 1974 Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau drama. “The Front Page” chronicles the relationship between editor and reporter, reporter and source, journalist and crook, journalist and family, and journalism and public relations all in one funny/dramatic swoop. Lemmon and Matthau play off each other like … well, like Lemmon and Matthau.
“The Front Page” is as hilarious as it is tragic, as a reporter tries to balance his desire for a normal family life as a lucrative public relations job offer looms. Journalists may be the only ones that get the tragedy.
6. The Year of Living Dangerously
You know Linda Hunt as the diminutive boss on “NCIS: Los Angeles,” but you should know her from her Oscar-winning, gender-bending performance in “The Year of Living Dangerously.”
This stacked early 80s drama also stars Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, and it will make you want to be a foreign correspondent. Gibson plays an Australian reporter named Guy Hamilton, sent to Jakarta in 1965 during a time of political strife and upheaval.
5. Good Night, and Good Luck
A lot of people are going to say that I ranked “Good Night, and Good Luck” too highly on my list, but the truth is that this film contributed to my wanting to be a journalist. David Strathairn’s amazing portrayal of Edward R. Murrow as he takes on Joe McCarthy during the peak of red fear in this country is brilliant.
The film also demonstrates television’s rise to power in the home. The ensemble cast also features Patricia Clarkson, George Clooney, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr., and Frank Langella.
4. Deadline U.S.A
This was Caitlin Kelly’s top pick on her J-movie list, and I can’t blame her. “Deadline U.S.A. stars Humphrey Bogart as an editor who tells his newsroom staff that they’ll all be laid off in two weeks. Boy that rings true. In 1952, when the film was released, journalism was in its heyday, but today anyone who works in a newsroom has probably seen people lose their jobs or take a buyout.
Kelly also points out a line from the paper’s star female reporter reflecting on her career: “I’ve got $81 in the bank, two dead husbands and two or three kids I never had.”
3. All the President’s Men
“All the President’s Men” stars Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman who portray Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward as they uncovered the Watergate scandal that ended the presidency of Richard Nixon.
This journalism’s sex tape. “All the President’s Men” shows how awesome it is to be a journalist and how much of an impact we can have on the world. For Christ’s sake — they brought down Nixon!
2. The Paper
“The Paper” is a comedy, but I’ve shown it to journalism students before. It shows the inner-workings of a metropolitan newsroom better than most films, and even though it was made in the mid-90s, the newsrooms still look pretty much the same as they did 15 years ago, except for a few more empty seats.
The film has another ridiculous cast that includes Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Marisa Tomei, Randy Quaid, and a small but memorable appearance by Jason Alexander (George from “Seinfeld”)
“The Paper” deals with the pressures of a New York metro editor trying to get not only a true story, but the best possible story that beats the competition. All the while, he is watching the clock for deadlines — both business and personal, as his pregnant wife and fellow journalist (Tomei) ponders her post-child life.
1. Absence of Malice
This 1981 Paul Newman/Sally Field flick is not necessarily my favorite movie, but it is a dramatic portrayal of what happens when a reporter gets too close to a source and when a publication over-pursues a story.
Newman plays Michael Gallagher, the son of a dead Mafia boss who finds himself on the front page of a Miami newspaper in a story indicating he is under investigation for the murder of a longshoreman.
Field plays the reporter behind the story. I won’t give it all away, but there is some romance, a lot of betrayal, a question of ethics, and a surprise ending.
The film begs the question: What’s the difference between accurate and truthful?