From All The President’s Men to The Post, the film business has a history of celebrating the hard-working heroes of the journalism industry. But for every accurate depiction of a hard-nosed news hound, you can find a dozen inaccurate portrayals of clueless gonzos, who don’t know their slugs from their subheadings.
We’ve collated some of the most dismal fictional journalists and the greatest sins they’ve committed to our magnificent profession:
Tim Messenger in Hot Fuzz (2007)
You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for Tim Messenger – considering that he’s the sole reporter, photographer, and sub-editor for the Sandford Citizen. We know that money in local news is hard to come by, but Tim definitely spreads himself far too thin.
GREATEST JOURNALISM SIN: Sloppy Sub-Editing
Messenger’s worst offences include misspelling Sergeant Angel as ‘Sergeant Angle’, and listing Mary Porter’s age as 55 (when she’s actually 53). That being said, the fact that his grammatical errors result in his murder at the hands of the town’s Neighbourhood Watch Alliance is perhaps a bit too far.
Amber Moore in A Christmas Prince (2017)
Set to write an investigative feature for Now Beat magazine, Amber Moore promptly forgets about the story of a foreign prince’s potential abdication and falls in love with him instead. Amber also doesn’t take constructive criticism lightly. After her Mills & Boon-esque article is spiked by editors for being a puff piece, she quits her job and posts the article on her blog. This is an awful decision. At the very least she could have pitched it to babe.net.
GREATEST JOURNALISM SIN: Keynote Note-taking
Amber is quite possibly the only journalist in existence to make notes using Keynote. She’s also the only journalist whose notes include insightful comments like “The prince still reluctant – WHY???” and “Have to find out!!”
Amy Townsend in Trainwreck (2015)
You shouldn’t really have to explain this to anyone who earns their living from writing, but having a fling with your subject is not a good idea. Don’t do it. Amy Townsend breaks this golden rule by getting far too intimate during her profile of sports doctor, Aaron Conners.
GREATEST JOURNALISM SIN: Getting Intimate with An Intern
Not only does she canoodle with her interviewee, but Townsend also commits a significant faux-pas by getting overly cosy with an intern. An intern that turns out to be underage. Oh, dear Amy. Despite almost committing statutory rape, Townsend’s story does still get picked up by Vanity Fair. So perhaps shoddy reporting does pay, after all.
Clark Kent in Superman (1978)
He may be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but Clark Kent is super bad at being a journalist. Not only does he rarely do any actual reporting, but the stories he does cover are always focussed on the spandex-clad antics of his alter-ego, Superman.
GREATEST JOURNALISM SIN: Vanity
A self-centred egotist, the only time Clark does work alongside his Daily Planet colleagues is when he provides his love-interest Lois Lane with an exclusive one-on-one interview with the man of steel, proving nepotism to be the real super villain of the industry.
Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
The epitome of sensationalist journalism, Rita Skeeter’s niche as a journalist involves gravely mis-reporting the truth. She’s the Michael Wolff of the wizarding world. Doing away with shorthand in favour of a magical quill, Skeeter commits some pretty serious sins in her interview with the world-famous Harry Potter.
GREATEST JOURNALISM SIN: Slander
Churning out an exaggerated hit-piece on the-the-boy-who-lived, rather than a balanced account of his participation in the Tri-Wizard tournament, Skeeter even accuses Harry of engaging in a romantic relationship with Hermione Granger. Under normal circumstances, Skeeter would be in pretty hot water for such blatant lies, but it seems Hogwarts is yet to crack down on defamation of character.
Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Although technically not a journalist, Elliot Carver gets a place on this list for being the only media mogul genuinely more ruthless than Rupert Murdoch. As owner of German-based mass media company, the Carver Media Group Network, Carver frequently uses his influence to wreak havoc on those that oppose him.
GREATEST JOURNALISM SIN: Extreme Entrapment
Carver’s network doesn’t just report the news, either – it creates it. Often first to report on the world-wide disasters that it causes in the first place, there aren’t many journalists who have attempted to instigate a world war for a story, and there are even less who have come closer to achieving it than Carver.
Josie Geller from Never Been Kissed (1999)
Another example of a journalist going undercover for a juicy scoop: Josie Geller exhibits a severe lapse of journalism ethics when she poses as a student at a local high school.
GREATEST JOURNALISM SIN: Burying the Lede
Writing about how she’s never been kissed in an overly intimate memoir, Josie completely glosses over the fact that the school’s English teacher falls in love with her. Which is, y’know, not okay. Instead of writing an exposé on a high school teacher who grooms his pupils through longing gazes and inappropriate Ferris wheel rides, Josie instead gushes about the entire experience. Talk about burying the lede.