It takes Superman or Kermit the Frog to do this job

A TV reporter talks to the camera. Via Flickr user Shavar Ross.

A TV reporter talks to a camera. Via Flickr user Shavar Ross.

Journalism has a long history in pop culture.

Clark Kent (Superman) is a reporter. Peter Parker (Spider-Man) is a photographer. There’s Citizen Kane and All the President’s Men. There are reporter characters in The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and even Sesame Street (remember Kermit the Frog?).

I’m hard-pressed to think of many other professions that so widely appear in movies, TV, and books. Doctors, police, detectives, lawyers, and journalists seem a lot more common in fiction than they are in real life.

Journalists in pop culture play to a few different character types. First, we have the noble ones such as Superman and the reporters in All the President’s Men (which is non-fiction). They take down the bad guys, whether through stellar investigative skills or superhuman strength.

Some reporters are meant to be commentary on present-day journalism, such as Kent Brockman in The Simpsons. They inflate stories, report on meaningless information, and grub for attention.

So why are journalists used so frequently in media? I have a few theories:

  • Journalism has been around a long time. The first newspaper was published more than 400 years ago in France, so the profession has had plenty of time to sink into the public consciousness.
  • Journalists’ jobs are exciting all the time, at least in pop culture. They report on burning buildings, crooked politicians, and super-powered villains from space, if they’re in certain comic books. TV shows and movies never shows the more mundane work involved such as moderating online comments for trolls and pouring through documents.
  • Reporters aren’t restricted by country. They are around the world and span across every nationality.
  • Journalists have an excuse for missing work all the time to do plot-related things — they’re covering a story.

What other journalists have you seen in pop culture? Any other theories as to why we see them so frequently?

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