Just like a movie, a journalist is constantly searching for an audience fascinated by his or her personal version of reality.
In the information age and globalization, journalism is a complex game suspended between truth and fiction, between the duty to inform and the irresistible lure of success.
However, with the presence of commentators, influencers, and more or less respectable figures in the business, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish those who tell pure and objective facts versus others who hide a personal agenda behind every piece of news.
Cinema, as a mirror of society, offers us a privileged glimpse into the world of information, taking us behind the scenes and unveiling what happens in the private affairs of these men and women when the camera goes off.
However, movies telling journalists’ stories do not necessarily need to stick to a realistic or documentary style to offer an accurate picture of their lives.
Today I want to take you on a journey through the different cinematic genres tackling the topic of journalism, from drama to demented comedy, through mysterious thriller, and of course, one last story of a real-life episode.
So, get ready to immerse yourself in a live news session that will blow your mind and make you ponder the significance of honesty and responsibility in the news business.
Table of contents
The Paper (1994)
The front page of this article is taken up by the well-known American filmmaker Ron Howard, who brings us behind the closed doors of a bustling newsroom of a small newspaper, The New York Sun.
Over a long and endless day, we follow the hectic life of Henry Hackett, a tireless journalist who, along with his colleagues, is struggling to survive in the publishing market.
It is an important day for him since he has secretly scheduled an interview with the hated rivals of the New York Sentinel.
Henry is not too keen on changing jobs, but it would mean higher pay and less demanding hours, essential now that his wife Martha is about to give birth to their first child.
Right amid this mess comes the early morning murder of two Wall Street financial bigwigs, killed in their car and covered with racist graffiti.
The police immediately arrest two black youths seen in the area, but Henry and his loyal friend and editor Michael McDougal believe that a mob hit-and-run may actually be behind it.
However, wise editor Bernie and neurotic colleague/rival Alicia do not believe him, so he has only 24 hours to find the truth before their paper goes to press.
The Paper is a resounding merry-go-round of life with an overwhelming pace and an array of over-the-top characters led by protagonist Michael Keaton.
Needless to point out, the skill of Robert Duvall and Glenn Close and the sweet and funny beauty of the superb Marisa Tomei.
Together they chronicle the decisive 24 hours of a man at the crossroads between his career and his passion as a journalist for a movie that is simply among the best American comedies of the last 30 years.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Now let’s move on to another more explosive and off-the-wall comedy than the previous one, starring the irresistible stand-up comedian Will Ferrell.
This time we are in 1970s San Diego, and dear Will plays Ron Burgundy, a charismatic news anchor and undisputed leader of a team of journalists even crazier than himself.
The group, consisting of Brian Fantana, Champ Kind, and Brick Tamland, is known for their talent for reporting the news by turning it into entertainment with their eccentric personalities, dominating the city’s ratings with their program, Channel 4 News.
However, this stable and cheerful journalistic landscape is disrupted by the arrival of Veronica Corningstone, a determined and ambitious reporter who aspires to become the first woman to lead the news.
Initially underestimated by Ron’s team, Veronica soon earns the respect of her colleagues and boss, Ed Harken, by highlighting gender inequalities in the information world.
The professional rivalry between Ron and Veronica intensifies, escalating to absurd verbal and physical confrontations as both try to outdo the other to prove they are the best.
At the same time, however, Ron and Veronica fall in love in a complicated dysfunctional relationship that is intertwined with their competition at work.
Directed by Adam McKay, before hits such as Vice or The Big Short, this movie tears apart with satire about sexism, ambition, and how personality and appearance can affect the success of television journalists.
Will Ferrell and his gang take us on a hilarious and irreverent journey through many hilarious situations and memorable characters, such as the even more demented colleague Steve Carell.
This a lesson in journalism you will struggle to forget, thinking back sadly as you watch real TV presenters wondering if there is any difference.
It is no coincidence when we talk about comedy and intelligence that we return to Woody Allen‘s name sooner or later.
In this case, the American actor/director/writer plays a magician who claims to be a fortune teller and a medium capable of communicating with the afterlife.
Of course, it is all a hoax to support his show, except that one night the beautiful Scarlett Johansson, who here plays Sondra Pransky, a young American journalism student who is in London for a period of study, participates in his act.
During the show, she and the magician actually get in touch with a spirit, the recently deceased investigative journalist Joe Strombel.
Thrilled to have met a young would-be colleague, the ghost reveals a sensational scoop: a serial killer named The Tarot Card Murderer may be a young English aristocrat, Peter Lyman, played by the now former X-Men Hugh Jackman.
Determined to use the opportunity to launch her journalistic career, Sondra enlists Sidney’s help to write a sensational investigative article.
Under the false cover of being father and daughter, this wacky journalistic team infiltrates London’s high society, where they get to know Peter’s entourage and begin hanging out with him. However, unfortunately, Sondra starts to experience mixed feelings making it even more challenging to uncover the truth.
As always, old Woody remixes suspense, humor, and romance, ranging in a smiling overview of modern London and the differences between social classes and the city’s charm.
Under the guise of mystery, the movie becomes a gripping and irreverent satire of investigative journalism, going to the extreme of completing their work at all costs, even aboard Charon‘s ferry on their last trip to the afterlife.
The Terror Live (2013)
We definitely stop laughing by switching to the next movie, where we find instead a journalist who gets into a whole different kind of trouble.
Yoon Young-hwa is a disgraced television journalist who now works as a radio host in Seoul.
One day, he receives a phone call from a man who identifies as a bomber and threatens to blow up a major bridge in the city unless the Korean president in person attends the live broadcast.
The blackmailer wants not money but an apology from the president for an incident many years earlier due to his administration, where he lost many friends and colleagues.
To demonstrate his seriousness about his intentions, he blows up one end of the bridge, trapping the cars in a precarious situation that could come crashing down at any moment.
Despite his fear, Yoon Young-hwa realizes he is facing a unique opportunity to resurrect his journalistic career. So, he decides to broadcast the hostage negotiations live, becoming the sole intermediary between the bomber and the public.
Director Kim Byung-woo shapes a thriller where he unravels the plot pieces, one move at a time, like a skilled and cunning chess player.
This human-scale drama occurs mainly inside the TV station, from which, in the distance, we can see potential victims on the bridge awaiting their fate.
Ha Jung-woo‘s acting performance is extraordinary, starring in one-man shows within an atmosphere of constant, claustrophobic tension.
The criticism of the inability of political authorities to admit their mistakes blends perfectly with professional careerism, leaving little space for morality and responsibility.
Besides being an excellent thriller, it is a perfect opportunity to learn firsthand the value of today’s South Korean productions, resounding in any cinematic genre.
The Post (2017)
As always, I want to end with a bang, so we bring to the list one of Steven Spielberg‘s best and most recent movies about the true story of a courageous group of journalists in the 1970s.
In one way or another, it revolves around the amazing Meryl Streep, who plays Katharine Graham, owner of the Washington Post, and her director Ben Bradlee played instead by the always-perfect Tom Hanks.
The so-called Pentagon Papers, explosive top-secret documents concerning U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, arrived in their newsroom through coincidences and acquaintances.
At the time, the newspaper was already in dire financial straits. They then ended up under pressure from the government and fear of serious legal consequences if they published these documents’ information.
Therefore, the entire staff rallies by sifting through the 4,000 red-hot pages of intelligence that go so far as to implicate even President Kennedy and his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, who have been dear lifelong friends of Mrs. Graham.
Steven Spielberg exhumes one of the darkest pieces of news regarding the threat of power toward the freedom of journalists bringing forth a tense, hard-hitting, realistic movie like a punch in the face.
There are no other plots or reading keys beyond the simple ethical conflict between the protagonists, who struggle between the fear of losing their jobs and reputations versus the morality dictating, to tell the truth to the public.
Meryl Streep stylishly embodies the doubts of a woman alone against the most powerful men in the United States, who busily worked to cover up their crimes against the nation.
Fortunately, behind her, she has an excellent staff led by the solid Tom Hanks, unwavering in his professional honesty even at the cost of losing everything.