Everyone Hates the Media

Article excerpt

WHAT DO Dan Quayle, Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan, and most of the film and television community have in common? They all hate the news media. If the conservatives would pause for a moment in their obsession with the so-called liberal cultural elite in Hollywood, they would see that their conceptions about the news media as biased and out of control are shared by the very people they criticize the most. For most of those labeled the religious right and/or the liberal elite, the complicated and diverse news media are thrown together into a single cesspool they all call "tabloid journalism."

The creative community does more than just complain about its contempt for the news media. In recent films and television movies, writers, directors, and producers have portrayed reporters as uncaring, biased, arrogant, out-to-get-you-at-all-costs gutter-rakers who care about no one and will do anything to cover a story, no matter how damaging it may be to the principals involved.

Many earlier films, often written by journalists, may have taken a dim view of the profession, but the characters usually were created with some affection and a true understanding of the journalist's role in a democratic society. The reporter more often than not was portrayed by a leading actor, so no matter how devious or obsessive the character may have been, the audience was sympathetic to him or her. After all, Clark Gable, Jimmy Cagney, Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Jean Arthur, and other matinee idols wouldn't do any real harm. They were all heroes.

In the last few decades, however, Hollywood has fallen out of love with the reporter-hero as they often were exposed to the worst aspects of entertainment journalism. Stories about them may have been partially true, exaggerated, or embroidered enough to cause pain and suffering. Most of what they have hated has been borderline journalism--supermarket tabloids eager to exploit any human weakness, inexperienced television reporters who badgered them either out of incompetence or a misguided conception of what a story was all about. As hatred of reporters has grown, even legitimate ones have found most of the Hollywood creative community hostile, suspicious of any kind of story that could embarrass or hurt them, no matter how valid it might be.

The result is an unending stream of motion pictures and television movies where the hero is hounded by a pack of shouting men and women armed with cameras and notebooks. No longer is Spencer Tracy or Humphrey Bogart the diligent reporter after the story; more often than not, it is anonymous extras posing as ill-mannered reporters who are attacking a beleaguered Bruce Willis or Diane Keaton. It doesn't matter what the movie or television program is about. More often than not, a gratuitous scene is thrown in showing reporters in the worst possible light.

"Running Mates," a recent HBO original movie, turns the media into the real villains. …