Journalists on Film

Forty years after All the President’s Men it seems that Hollywood is once again making films about journalists. I’ve seen a couple of them in recent weeks.

First was Spotlight which tells the story of how the reporters from the Boston Globe broke the story of a child abuse cover up by the Catholic Church. The events portrayed in the film took place in 2001, in the days when newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic still had the staff resources to work on big stories like this. With newspaper print circulations now in permanent decline, I suspect that few publications would have the will to finance this sort of investigative journalism any more.

Then there was Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a highly fictionalised account of US foreign correspondent Kim Barker’s experiences while covering the conflict in Afghanistan in the 2000s. Tina Fey, best known to UK audiences for her wickedly accurate Sarah Palin spoofs, is good in the lead role and the film does raise some pertinent questions about the ethics of war reporting.

Interestingly, both movies are set in the recent past and feature US rather than British journalists. In fact, there have been surprisingly few films or TV series about the British media. The last memorable one was Channel Four’s TV newsroom satire Drop the Dead Donkey back in the 1990s.

This is probably due to two factors. Firstly recent big journalism successes such as the Parliamentary expenses scandal are very worthwhile but not really sexy enough for a movie script. Secondly, I can’t help feeling that the phone hacking controversy means that the British public now has a low opinion of journalists and certainly doesn’t see them as hero material.

However, if any film studio is brave enough to make a movie about the phone hacking affair, we could all have great fun speculating on who we would like to see cast in the leading roles.

PS – Although I did enjoy Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, one thing did rather spoil it for me. Martin Freeman is a decent enough actor, but his attempt at a Glasgow accent in this film is truly awful.



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