As an aspiring female journalist, there are many obstacles that I assume I’ll have to face: hard-headed male bosses, not being taken seriously by sources due to my appearance, lack of a personal life, among others.
But after attending the panel called “Image of the Washington Political Journalist in Popular Culture,” I’m starting to realize that these notions are supported by entertainment media and not by fact.
Professor Sammye Johnson from Trinity University presented her paper called “Passionate and Powerful: Film Depictions of Women Journalists Working in Washington, D.C.” She studied four recent films that show female journalists as the protagonists.
Johnson talked about “Up Close and Personal,” 1996, “Thank You for Smoking,” 2006, “Lions for Lambs,” 2007, and “State of Play,” 2009. Each film is different, but with similar themes; female journalists are either depicted as young, sexy, immoral, sneaky, and lacking personal life, or as experienced journalists but unable to find their place in a man’s world.
While the scenarios presented in these films may sometimes ring true, it’s definitely not the norm. I’ve spent time in news rooms and with female journalists, and they do indeed have personal lives, morals and know how to be successful with or without a trendy new outfit.
So why did I think these themes would be indicators of my future, rather than what I’ve experienced in my real life?
In the question and answer portion of the session, Johnson made a good point that I hadn’t thought about. A lot of people don’t meet reporters — their ideas of a reporter’s job and behavior come from film. I formed notions about the news profession long before I began exploring it firsthand.
This panel not only showed me the power of Hollywood, but it also gave me a big sense of relief. My career as a journalist will be formed the way I see fit, not how movies dictate it to be.