Being a reporter is tough work – do you think all those news stories fall out of the sky? It takes a lot of digging, research, questioning and fact-checking in order to tease out all those juicy stories you read in the news. As a journalist, you have to be thick-skinned, determined, and resourceful to uncover the truth behind matters. Often, they also have to make the difficult decision of whether to publish or not, and they also face great risks in the line of duty. Just look at Marie Colvin in A Private War – she lost an eye in the field, and later even lost her life in Syria in Feb 2012.

But being a good journalist doesn’t just mean having the ability to sniff out great stories. It means having the empathy to care for the people you speak to, the social awareness of how the story will affect others who read it, and the common sense to know how to write (although Lois Lane is infamous for her terrible spelling despite being a star reporter).

Here are some of the best journalists we’ve seen on screen. Which one of them is your favourite?

1. MacKenzie in The Newsroom

Many female leads are reduced to being “the male lead’s girlfriend” in shows. Not so for MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) in The Newsroom (created by none other than The Social Network‘s Aaron Sorkin). She plays the ex-girlfriend of Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), the presenter-editor character of the television series. However, she isn’t defined by her relationship to the main character. She’s the executive producer of the news programme.

Rather, MacKenzie is an opinionated but skilful journalist herself, pushing for stories that should be covered on the fictional Atlantis Cable News channel in the show. She clashes with Will, but their clashes are often based on idealogical differences rather than simmering sexual tension, and she’s a great example of how a journalist can be hard-hitting without being overbearing.

She often points out the truth with passion and gusto, and it’s always entertaining to see how she resolves problems. Sadly, The Newsroom didn’t make it to Season 4.

 

2. Katherine Graham in The Post

In real life, Katharine Graham was the owner of The Washington Post (yes, that’s what the film is named after). Meryl Streep gave a masterful performance as Graham in The Post, which depicted the struggle at The Washington Post about whether to publish damning discoveries about the US government’s involvement in the Vietnam War – at the risk of running into legal challenges and having their reputation besmirched as a result.

Streep gave life to Katharine Graham, portraying her as equal parts vulnerable but courageous. The decision to publish ultimately hinges on Graham in the film, and she ends up making the courageous decision to do so. In an era when few women were in leadership roles, Katharine Graham defied stereotypes by making brave editorial decisions that few others would have the guts to.

 

3. Sacha Pfeiffer in Spotlight

Spotlight sees the titular team of journalists from The Boston Globe uncovering a huge cover-up – child abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the Boston area. Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) was one of the key journalists in the team who helped to discover this by doggedly hitting the streets and finding as many witnesses as she could about the cover-up.

Despite the uncomfortable questions (“Do you admit to molesting boys at St John the Baptist church?”) she has to ask, she still presses on. You can see the hesitancy she had at having to confront possible perpetrators about their unpunished crimes, but she still went ahead with a sort of steely calm (even when a door is slammed in her face).

Those nerves of steel are what makes Pfeiffer a journalist we can all admire, but her hesitation and discomfort are what make Pfeiffer a human being we can all empathise with.

 

4. Lois Lane in Superman (1978)

The 1978 version of Superman is a classic, despite some rather dated portions (the smoking, for one) (and Superman’s [Christopher Reeve] lecture about the dangers of smoking truly shows that he is the Man of Tomorrow). In any case, he falls in love with co-worker Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), probably one of the most feisty reporters in the Daily Planet.

As a strong female character in the late 70’s, Lois Lane stood out not only for being good at her job, but by having the determination to go after what she wants. Although she might not be quite as special in today’s day and age, she was one of the more groundbreaking female characters of her time. She might be human – but she was more than a match for Superman in terms of character.

And as a journalist, she always managed to turn in the best stories. Note that she was already an amazing journalist before Superman came on the scene – which meant that even if Superman weren’t around to constantly save her, Lois Lane would still have been an ace reporter anyway.

 

5. Marie Colvin in A Private War

Based on “Marie Colvin’s Private War”, an article in Vanity Fair in 2012 about the legendary journalist Marie Colvin herself (played by Rosamund Pike), the film is a biopic about her life. She covered stories about Kosovo and Chechnya, and won The International Women’s Media Foundation award for Courage in Journalism as a result. Before that, she once found 1,500 other women and children trapped in a compound in East Timor, besieged by Indonesia-backed forces. Instead of abandoning them to their fate, she chose to stay with an unarmed United Nations force to report on their circumstances daily, ultimately saving their lives in the end.

She lost an eye in 2001 while covering a Sri Lankan conflict, as a piece of exploding shrapnel blinded her. She wore her signature eyepatch thereafter.

A Private War. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

A Private War poster. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Despite – or maybe because of her fearless efforts, Marie Colvin was allegedly assassinated by the Syrian government. At the age of 56, Colvin was attempting to escape when an improvised explosive device killed her and a French photographer. She lived a full and fulfilling life – and if you’re interested in find out about the life of this amazing journalist, check out A Private War. It’s a movie about a real-life heroine in action, and how she wielded the most powerful weapon – the printed word.

It may have been A Private War of Marie Colvin, but it was a war nonetheless.

 

Credits: Golden Village Cinemas

 

 

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