I’m a recent college graduate, so I have a lot of free time in between applying for jobs and going to interviews. Ergo, I’ve been catching up on movies I probably should have seen years ago but never got around to. Today’s selection: 27 Dresses, a 2008 romantic-comedy about a woman who has been a bridesmaid for 27 weddings and her search for a man. The film and story are about as substantial as you expect.
But what really grated on my nerves was the portrayal of journalism.
James Marsden’s character writes for the wedding section of a newspaper. He suggests stories about price-fixing at wedding bakeries and exploitation of lace factory workers – two stories I (and many other people) would read with breakfast. Or on an iPad at work. Or while catching a glimpse of the lining in their cat’s litter box.
And what does Maureen the editor say to these story ideas?
“That’s what people really wanna read about in the style section,” she retorts with a sarcastic air. (A cynical editor – at least the movie got something right about the journalism world.) “Kevin, this section practically pays for the entire paper. Our advertisers want fun, upbeat, colorful human-interest stories.”
I’ve never heard any newspaper editor worry about advertisers. Sure, it’s happened somewhere, but by and large that kind of practice is frowned upon. I guess most news-gatherers have a hang-up about delivering balanced information. They try not to let outside forces and prejudices affect coverage.
It frightens me that this is how people think journalists operate. They only publish stories that won’t scare away any advertisers. Reality check: In a typical newsroom, there is the editorial department and the advertising department. Advertising crams pages with ads so the editorial department can then fill in the meager spaces with stories and photos.
When someone picks up a newspaper or sees a story online or changes the cat’s litter box, that coverage wasn’t dictated by what advertisers want. At least, that’s true for now in much of the evolving world of journalism.
So, 27 Dresses, I don’t reject you for being a movie as clichéd as the word cliché. I don’t reject you because you think all women need a man. I reject you because of your portrayal of journalism. As many angry online commenters have ferociously typed, DO YOUR RESEARCH!