While print newspapers may be a dying breed, journalism certainly isn’t. The fourth estate has always been a foundational part of American democracy – exposing government secrets and wrongdoing, seeking justice in all parts of the world, and giving voice to the voiceless. Recently, there has been a growing mistrust of journalism with the advent of “fake news,” and yet, or perhaps because of this, reporting is more important than ever.
This sounds dramatic, but it’s absolutely true. I suppose I am biased, being a student journalist myself, but without journalism, democracy as an idea would cease to be.
To remind us of times where journalism and investigative reporting were not only taken seriously, but admired, here are a few of the best journalism movies ever made:
- “The Post” (2018). Now, maybe this is a little high on what is actually a much longer list, but I have limited space, and there are aspects of this film that are really fantastic. Meryl Streep plays Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, let alone the Washington Post. Opposite her is Tom Hanks as legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. The two are electric together as they work to catch up with the New York Times in the release of the Pentagon Papers, exposing decades of government secrets and risking the very existence of the Post.
- “The Paper” (1994). If you want to know what it’s like to work at a newspaper – the atmosphere of the newsroom, the frantic energy of reporters when they’re chasing down a story, what editors are like when they’re trying to put a paper together by midnight – this is your movie. “The Paper” is a hugely underrated film that brings out all the stereotypes about journalists, most of which are true. Journalists are nuts. But more on that later. For now, go watch Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Glenn Close and Robert Duvall in this hilarious and fast-paced film about making a paper.
- “Broadcast News” (1987). Switching gears slightly from print to broadcast, “Broadcast News” features three of the best journalism characters ever written for the screen: Holly Hunter is ambitious producer Jane Craig who one Rotten Tomatoes critic called “a feminist heroine in a way that few female romantic-comedy protagonists since have been.” Al Brooks is the whip smart but fumbling reporter, and William Hurt is the ‘dumb blonde’ reporter – good-looking and charismatic, but not the brightest. The comedic timing of this trio is impeccable, making thispretty spot-onnetwork news movie so much more than that.
- “Spotlight” (2015). This is the true story of the Boston Globe’s investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and how this team of journalists engaged in tedious, uncomfortable, and relentless reporting to get to the truth. As Poynter magazine calls it, it is “this generation’s ‘All the President’s Men.” See below.
- “All the President’s Men” (1976). There’s really no question about it: this is the greatest journalism film of all time. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play Woodward and Bernstein, respectively, the two young reporters at The Washington Post who doggedly pursued the link between the White House and the Watergate affair. The film shows audiences the true meaning of shoe-leather reporting, ‘the benefits of free press,’ and ‘the dangers of unchecked power.’