The Drama of Typing



Alyssa Rosenberg wants to see the great American news media movie:

I don’t know why there hasn’t been a truly great movie about journalism in the United States in recent years. I thought the State of Play remake was fun, but not even close to great. Perhaps it’s that Hollywood isn’t inclined to kick journalism when it’s down. Or that American politicians who hate the press these days tend to hate it with a dull, hammer-like disregard, rather than a poisonous, personal, specific loathing combined with need, something that colors both In the Loop and State of Play (I was at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota last year when delegates at the floor began chanting “NBC” in derision and doing a kind of reverse tomahawk chop in the direction of the press box. Strange to say the least).

I think the issue here is just that not enough happens in journalism. I’ve watched Spencer Ackerman report out some pretty good stories. It involved a certain amount of looking stuff up online, a great deal of waiting for people to return phone calls, some taking notes, some talking. And then you kind of need to do it all over again. Filling out FOIA requests is important, but watching someone do it would be deadly dull. If you think about All The President’s Men they manage to build an awful lot of somewhat frenetic physical action into the process—people are always physically going places to do things. Which makes the film watchable, but I think is not all that reflective of how people really find where the bodies are buried. Back when I had bosses who wanted to try to turn me into a real reporter-type journalist, the slogan was “pick up the damn phone” not “go do something that would look interesting on a large movie screen.”

That said, journalists stationed abroad are another matter. I think Welcome to Sarajevo is very good and there must be some great stories to tell about life in the Baghdad Bureau of an American news organization.