Reporters Are Never Realistic on TV

There are a few movies that I am, for the sake of other people’s fragile sanity, no longer permitted to watch.

The most notable of these is probably “Shakespeare in Love,” which missed the mark for me for the sole reason that the woman pretending to be a man (pretending to be a woman) who was Shakespeare’s girlfriend in the movie did not have the initials W.H. To me, this meant the writers of the film clearly did not care about Shakespeare, which made the whole film evil.

Other than that, though, I am no longer allowed to watch movies about reporters–specifically, newspaper reporters and news writers.

These are the characteristics of reporters on TV:

  • They do not carry a notebook and a pen, nor any technological equivalents such as recorders. Because we all memorize everything we hear and/or never have to have quotes in a story.
  • If they have a job writing features, they hate that job, and want to write big, important political news instead. Because that’s what everyone likes to write, without exception, you know! Not stories about saving puppies or the new restaurant in town! (Actually, my ambition in life is to become the official Puppy Editor for the Sun, but that’s a story for a different time.)
  • Alternately, they cover big, important, political stories. They never have to sit through four-hour meetings about ditch repair in order to do this.
  • These types of important-things-reporters very often get shot at by conspirators. I have been shot at exactly once in my years of reporting, and that was a result of covering a small-town shooting tournament in which people shooting at a metal bird managed to ricochet a shotgun blast about ten feet from where I was standing. It was an accident. And they probably should have put the “Do not stand past this line” line a little further away from the metal bird.
  • They have some sort of axe to grind, some sort of agenda. This extends to the reporter in “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” who doesn’t have a recording device and is bent on getting dirt on some guy. You know, some of us just like to write down what happens, with as little bias as possible and as accurately as possible.
  • They are hardened to tragedy and love mayhem, eagerly chasing after it like a lion hunting a wounded gazelle. I’ve cried at least a few times in my reporting career, and I know at least a few people who go and cry in the bathroom when a story hits a little too close to home. Stories do that sometimes, even to the hardened newsroom veterans. Some people do love mayhem. But a lot of us chase it because we have to, and would much rather cover puppies, thank you.
  • They are irreverent and smart-alecky, often with a fairly morbid sense of humor. This is actually somewhat true, not of all, but certainly some reporters. Humor is a defense mechanism, and it does work. Don’t mistake it for not being genuinely sorry about a tragedy, though. If my obituary’s not hilarious, I fully intend to haunt whoever writes it–or maybe just their puppies.

8 thoughts on “Reporters Are Never Realistic on TV

  1. Love it Kari! I agree wholeheartedly. I want to add a couple from the broadcast side of things.

    1) I hate it how they show a TV reporter and one camera man on the scene of something. The reporter then just breaks into “I’m so and so, live on the scene of whatever.” They never show that they’re communicating with the station about when to go on, they’re never attached to any other cords or a live truck or sat truck. The reporter just pops on whenever she likes. The camera guy never has a tripod. So unrealistic.
    2) Most female TV reporters are implied to be bubble-headed beauty queens who care nothing about the story and more about their makeup. (There are a few like this, but most female reporters I’ve met aren’t like that a bit.)
    3) We’re all heartless self-centered vultures who don’t care (Don Henley’s song….Dirty Laundry…although that’s a pretty good song :-) )

    I’d actually recommend Broadcast News with Holly Hunter…that was pretty realistic back in the day….

    • 1. … you know, I never really thought about that. Why *don’t* they have tripods? I have a bit of a tremor (especially when caffeinated), so I always had to use a tripod or film everything in wobble-o-vision.

      2. I’m not sure 2 applies only to women, to be fair–though they do get hit harder by it. Ted Baxter on Mary Tyler Moore would’ve been a great example of the male version.

      3. I love that song! But mostly we really do care, even if we have to grow a bit of armor to survive–it’s not usually very thick armor.

  2. I’d challenge you to find any group of people who aren’t represented as a stereotype in movies, TV, print, etc…stereotypical shorthand prevents the audience from thinking too hard (and thus changing the channel) :-)

    • Oh, sure. But I think people don’t necessarily realize how bad the stereotypes are until they’re brought up.

      I remember I was a little surprised when my mother (a nurse) pointed out it would be rare for a single patient to have a swarm of three or four doctors fluttering around. I hadn’t really thought about it.

  3. And don’t get me started about how scientists and labs are represented. You don’t take coffee into rooms with live animals, 28 Days Later!!! And those cages are waaaaay too small for chimps!

    • Scientists are also always men, and (mostly) white late-middle-aged men. Or at least the ones who talk are. There may be some gorgeous babe 25-35-year-old women scientists running around in the background. Do they take the women scientists out back and shoot them when they hit 40 and/or get their first wrinkle?

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