FauxPolitik

Monday, January 12, 2004

Journalist: Richard Woodward asks, in the Globe Ideas section:
Americans rank journalists down there with used car salesmen and lawyers. So why do we keep making movies about them?
Interestingly, look at the movies we've made about them, particularly since the word "journalist" (n, one who advocates rule by the dailies?) became current. Sure, All the President's Men was a liberal wet dream (says Woodward, "Innumerable Hollywood plots, from "Three Days of the Condor" to "The Pelican Brief," have celebrated newspapers as the country's last defense against tyranny), but what about Network, Broadcast News, Citizen Kane ("You supply the headlines, I'll supply the war")? Says Woodward:
As individuals, however, journalists have more routinely been portrayed as law-benders and scandal-mongers. They came of age on film at about the same time as the private eye, that other troublemaker with his own patter, tribal etiquette, and fluid, attractively dangerous sense of morality. As lowlifes who claim the right to poke their noses into anyone's business, reporters have earned the contempt of Americans up and down the social scale.
I like it that, in this context, he uses the word "reporter." "Newsman" is good, too, if perhaps a bit politically incorrect. "Journalist" is such an awful word. If others puff up like peacocks when stating their occupation (think "petroleum transfer technician" or "sanitation engineer") they're usually due for some ridicule. Not so the press, the fourth estate! Humbug. I think the story is told about James Thurber (I may be misremembering), who claimed to have been hired by the New Yorker by calling himself a "newsman" while every other candidate called himself a "journalist."

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