Journalism on the big screen (or the little one)

Each time I see a journalist in a movie or TV show, I always nudge my husband and say something like, “See? Another journalist! This movie wouldn’t be the same without a journalist. Do people even know how important journalists are in their movies and shows? My profession can’t go away!”

I started a mental list of journalists in movies and on TV. Then when the newsroom computers were on the fritz, I solicited the help of my awesome co-workers and actually wrote down a list. They came up with tons of films and shows I had forgotten or hadn’t even heard of.

So here you go, an unofficial list of journalism on the big screen and the small screen. I hope you enjoy. Please add any omissions in the comments, and I’ll update the post and give you credit.

UPDATE, OCT. 13: I’ve updated the lists with suggestions from my current and former coworkers. You guys rock!

UPDATE, OCT. 17: More listings added, thanks to the suggestion of a reader named “acupoftea.”

First, here are the movies and TV shows that featured print journalism — newspapers or magazines — in a key role. (And yes, I’m counting fashion magazines as journalism. I’m in a generous mood.)

  • The Wire (Season 5) — All about a fictionalized version of The Baltimore Sun.
  • Marley and Me — The dog owners are journalists.
  • Perfect Strangers — Larry and Balki work at the Chicago Chronicle, not as journalists, but I’m still counting it.
  • Never Been Kissed — Perhaps the most unrealistic newspaper movie ever, but still cute.
  • Newsies — A Disney musical about an 1899 newspaper strike, featuring a young Christian Bale.
  • All the President’s Men — Classic, inspirational film about The Washington Post reporters who cracked Watergate.
  • Citizen Kane — A classic that I haven’t seen.
  • Superman — Clark Kent and Lois Lane work at the Daily Planet, of course.
  • Spiderman — Peter Parker is a photographer.
  • Batman — In the Michael Keaton version, Kim Basinger’s character is a newspaper reporter.
  • Sleepless in Seattle — Meg Ryan is a Baltimore Sun reporter, and as a media-world bonus, they are connected through talk radio.
  • Shattered Glass — I wish they didn’t make movies about frauds.
  • Beverly Hills, 90210 — Not only did Andrea and Brandon work on the school newspaper, Brandon worked at a newspaper after graduation.
  • Just One of the Guys — Girl reporter dresses as a boy.
  • State of Play — Russell Crowe as a journalist.
  • The Ring — Naomi Watts is a journalist.
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil — Reporter investigates a murder in the south.
  • Adaptation — Meryl Streep’s character (the author of “The Orchid Thief”) is a writer for the New Yorker.
  • The Paper — I forgot I had seen this one. Need to Netflix it.
  • His Girl Friday — They’ve been making movies about great female journalists since 1940!
  • Absence of Malice — Sally Field as a Miami newspaper reporter.
  • Philadelphia Story — Another film from 1940.
  • Almost Famous — On the road as a writer for Rolling Stone.
  • Zoolander — Supposedly a fashion magazine is involved in this movie I’ve never seen.
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days — The entire premise of the movie rests on Kate Hudson’s job writing for a Composure magazine.
  • Ugly Betty — TV show set at a fashion magazine.
  • Devil Wears Prada — More from the world of fashion magazines.
  • Zodiac — The San Francisco Chronicle and a serial killer. Another one I forgot I had seen.
  • My Boys — Recently cancelled TV show all about a woman sports columnist in Chicago.
  • Sweet Smell of Success — I hadn’t heard of this until Tony Curtis died and it was mentioned.
  • Full Metal Jacket — Pvt. Joker works for Stars and Stripes. (Thanks to Joshua McKerrow.)
  • The Front Page — I didn’t know about this until I looked up Switching Channels.
  • It Happened One Night — With Clark Gable as a “rougish reporter,” according to Wikipedia. (Thanks to Vanessa Franko.)
  • 13 Going on 30 — Jennifer Garner works at a magazine. I didn’t know that because I’ve never seen the whole movie through. (Vanessa scores again!)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — Written by the crazy Hunter S. Thompson. (Another suggestion from Vanessa.)
  • Hot Tub Time Machine — Vanessa says a music reporter is involved.
  • Letters to Juliet — Our young heroine is a fact-checker for the New Yorker.
  • The Bounty Hunter — Jennifer Aniston is an “investigative reporter.”
  • The Holiday — Kate Winslet’s character, Iris, works at The Daily Telegraph in London. This is a cute little movie.

Now is the surprisingly shorter list of movies and TV shows featuring broadcast journalism — TV or radio.

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — The heroes in the half-shell are friends with April, a TV reporter. (Turtle power!)
  • The Network — Another one to add to my Netflix queue.
  • Good Night, and Good Luck — As inspiring as All the President’s Men.
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show — You go, girl. Toss that hat.
  • Murphy Brown — Do you remember the name of the show she worked for? It was called “FYI.”
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary — She has a job in TV.
  • Full House — Danny Tanner is a host on “Wake Up, San Francisco.”
  • Anchorman — “Stay classy, San Diego.”
  • NewsRadio — With the late, great Phil Hartman.
  • WKRP in Cincinnati — Les Nessman was the news guy.
  • Switching Channels — A 1980s remake of His Girl Friday and The Front Page. (Thanks to Vanessa Franko.)
  • Broadcast News — Starring Holly Hunter. (Thanks to Shanteé Woodards, who had to watch this in journalism school.)
  • Up Close & Personal — Another journalism film with All The President’s Men star Robert Redford. (More kudos to Shanteé Woodards, and also to Ellen Scarano.)
  • The Ugly Truth — Katherine Heigl is a morning show producer. (Thanks to Vanessa Franko, again!)
  • Knocked Up — Again, with Katherine Heigl, this time she works for an entertainment TV show, which would only be considered journalism on my most generous day.
  • All About Steve — In this Sandra Bullock train wreck (score of 17 on Metacritic), she’s after Bradley Cooper, who plays a TV cameraman. And Bullock’s character is apparently a crossword puzzle writer for the Sacramento Herald.
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7 thoughts on “Journalism on the big screen (or the little one)

  1. Good one, Pam! I LOVE “His Girl Friday.” You can add “Up Close and Personal” with Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer; “Good Morning, Vietnam” I think.
    Ellen

  2. You need Switching Channels (an ’80s remake of His Girl Friday with Burt Reynolds and Kathleen Turner) for the TV category.

    It Happened One Night with Clark Gable is another classic.

    I am glad you included Almost Famous. That is the number one question I’m asked when people find out I was at Rolling Stone–“Was it like Almost Famous”? Nope.

    Unfortunately you might need to add “The Ugly Truth,” a terrible one about a TV news program that panders to a lowest-common denominator audience.

    And 13 Going on 30 includes Jennifer Garner working at Poise magazine when she’s a grownup.

    Also, the movie version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, my favorite book of all-time, which was originally published as excerpts in Rolling Stone.

    Oh, and Hot Tub Time Machine has a character who is a music reporter for a magazine who is trying to interview Poison.

  3. Great post! There’s also Broadcast News, featuring Holly Hunter. They made us watch it in J school. And Up Close & Personal is a great one.

  4. For some reason the last three chick flicks I have watched are all about journalists.
    The Letter to Juliet with Amanda Seyfried, she’s a fact-checker-turned-writer
    The Bounty Hunter with Jennifer Aniston. She’s a journalist pursuing a dangerous drug story.
    The Holiday with Kate Winslet, a journalist who is not-so-secretly in love with another journalist who doesn’t love her back.
    But they are all happy endings.

    and Sandra Bullock’s All About Steve. won that award for worst movie? can’t forget about the journalist in red boots.

  5. Great list, Pam. I seem to remember that Larry from Perfect Strangers actually was a reporter at the Chronicle. They rarely made it a storyline in a show, but I recall him having a conversation with his boss, Mr. Gorply [sp?] about him doing some story that was worthy of a Pulitzer.

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