Sunday, September 19

Lou Grant and other fictional journalists who made the trade highly toxic


He was “a teacher of journalists.” What did real journalists learn from the character played by Ed Asner? The actor died a few days ago at the age of 91 and in the series he discovered to several generations of budding journalists what a newsroom was like and how a newspaper was run. There was only one way: with a pair. Lou Grant was a sequel to alpha male journalism that prevailed in deeds and gestures, the type that every pen should aspire to. To sum it up, again: this is not a chore for the finicky. Lou Grant in Los Angeles Tribune He was an irascible, loud, uncompromising, sociopathic, arrogant guy and he did everything for the freedom of the press! And he became a myth, an idol, a god.

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The first major series of journalists – broadcast by CBS between 1977 and 1982 – made toxicity the norm, although it aspired to be a copy of All the president’s men (1976). While one exaggerated personal relationships between colleagues, the Alan J. Pakula film, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, preferred that the plot remain on the margins – already dramatic in itself – of the profession. The director, whom they called “the lady upstairs”, was Margaret Pynchon (Nancy Marchand) and she ran her newspaper with the same levels of testosterone and a dog with a bow on her desk … By the way, there was a woman in the newsroom, Billie .

This September 8, which is celebrated on International Journalism Day and we are trying to eradicate the toxicity of our masculinities, is a good time to review some of the fictions that have built more than stereotypes. From Lou Grant to an immediate precedent: Walter Burns is the director of the Chicago Examiner And he’s an honest prick with his most creeping miseries. Billy Wilder only leaves a chance for journalism in Front page (1974): abandon it before it completely corrupts you and indulge in happiness and a living wage, as does Hildy Johnson, a copywriter who has married Peggy Grant (Susan Sarandon) and spends her last hours in the most disgusting profession of all. Hildy is fed up and does not want to know anything more about Burns or the scum that emanates with each of his gestures. How good is Walter Matthau. This masterpiece also did not miss the opportunity to ridicule a delicate, neat and prim character like Roy Bensinger (David Wayne) in the middle of that machuna pack.

Rosa Montero, journalist and author of novels such as Good luck (Alfaguara) or The ridiculous idea not to see you again (Seix Barral), does not remember Lou grant. He saw it once or not at all, he says. But remember “those newsrooms” and Wilder’s movie. “What I want to tell you is that I lived through that when I started working in 1970. I will not tell you names because I don’t feel like it, but I was around Francoist newsrooms and very macho journalists. Very macho. They were going to make events and they came back with photos of the dead son that had been stolen from the mother in an oversight and were published the next day. The newsrooms have changed as societies have changed “, sums up the author. “I believe in journalism because there is a change in society. Maybe Wilder did that because that’s the way things were,” he adds.

The journalist Silvia Cruz Lapeña is forceful: “Sexist, macho and abusive behaviors, out. By law,” says the author of Lady tiger (KO books). Always faithful to the nuances, he points out that the “nature” of this work cannot be ignored either. “It is inevitable because we work in a hurry and that implies pushing, many people in one place, ego …”, he points out. He regrets that companies have not taken seriously to change the customs and less civilized behaviors of the human being that seem to have the approval of some newsrooms in which, for example, conflict is encouraged to comradeship. It recognizes that it can be changed to some extent because there will always be a hunger for traffic and exclusives. But it leaves the door open to good news: now that teleworking has spread there have been no problems of rubbing, friction and screaming. Without poison you can.

With much less grace and tenderness than Walter Burns, Duncan Allen (brilliant Ben Chaplin) is the editor of a wealthy populist newspaper, the Post, who wears black and wears a crossed leather shoulder strap over a dark three-quarter coat and whose greatest virtue is not feeling pity. Press (2018) is a six-part series created by the BBC to discover that the truth does not sell newspapers – as it happens to its rival, the Herald, progressive and precarious – and that with exaggeration the company is profitable. Allen is the best portrait of our day. It is the brain that leaves its writing in the most rotten sewers of the moral of this office. A true stalker pocero, who would not hesitate to publish that sniffing wind prevents cancer and heart attack.

Marta San Miguel, journalist at The Montañés newspaper and author of A form of permanence (KO Books), remember that during the race his references were Orianna Fallaci, Manu Leguineche and the Spanish series Journalists. “Front page I liked it a lot but it never became a consistent reference and when I entered the newsroom I understood everything, from my own stereotypes to those of others. But a newsroom is such a lively, energetic and unpredictable place, “he says.

The Daily planet it is also an unpredictable newspaper. In fiction. Reporters Clark Kent and Lois Lane, who suffer from their editor-in-chief, Perry White, work at the head of Metropolis. This character was born in the second episode of The Adventures of Superman, in February 1940. He remains in the line of the angry, uncontrollable, arbitrary and tough type, who smokes cigars, wears a vest and always seems to have woken up on the sofa in his office. In Richard Donner’s feature film released in 1978, Perry White (played by Jackie Cooper) insists on portraying himself as the comic book character – but with a cardigan instead of a vest – that is, as a mischievous man who can destroy the self-esteem of its workers with the excuse of saving the truth from the lie (if it has a good headline that crushes the competition in the newsstand).

At Daily bugle from New York works the photojournalist Peter Parker, who suffers from John Jonah Jameson Jr, a stubborn, tight-fisted, yelling and spiteful guy whom Stan Lee and Steve Diko drew, in 1963, with the new attributes of the authentic machaca-employees: a Brush-type mustache and checkered fur. He despises everything that is not him or wants to be like what he is, preferring fear, threat and conflict between colleagues to a healthy and peaceful environment. In the Marvel Universe, John Jonah Jameson is one of Spider-Man’s enemies who never gives in. His superpower is humiliation.

Pablo G. Batista, journalist and screenwriter, has a clear journalistic reference: Gustavo the frog. His references were real, they were on the radio and he ended up working with them and verifying that the fiction was not so misguided. “A little grumpy and egomaniacal,” he says. Fiction tends to represent reality in a Manichean way, he points out, and makes us empathize with the villains. “There is also a tremendous romanticization of journalism in fiction. There is no point in pursuing the dream of being in the newsroom. The Newsroom (2012 HBO series) with Will McCavoy (Jeff Daniels) defending freedom of the press, objectivity, fighting for dignity in each of his interventions. The truth is in the comedy “, says Batista, responsible for the comments of Cachitos. That is, more Bill Murray (in Caught in time (1983) and less Lou Grant. “Better talkative reporter than sociopathic boss.”

“Lou Grant today would have a journey because what people like is exaggeration and not the truth,” says the indefatigable journalist Antonio Rubio, director of the Master in journalistic investigation, new narratives, data, fact-checking and transparency of the URJC and the Maldita.es Foundation. This distinguished researcher recalls that those newsrooms he inhabited were very different from the current ones because the lack of funding has multiplied the pressures of the system, more than the human ones. He prefers movies as a reference All the president’s men and The Pentagon Archives (directed by Steven Spielberg in 2017) because they are less histrionic and hyperbolic than Lou Grant, because in 40 years he says that something has changed. And that has to be celebrated.



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