When you’re young and idealistic, journalism can seem like a dynamic, important and dare I say it even somewhat noble career path to go down. Indeed, the thought of breaking political scandals, reporting from conflict zones and bringing untold suffering to the attention of the world has great appeal.
Like many other professions though, the idealised view of a career in journalism doesn’t always match up to reality. For every one journalist who unmasks a corrupt politician, gets embedded with a military unit or reports the full horror of a natural disaster to the wider world, there are hundreds more reporting on WI meetings and filling column spaces with rumour and hearsay about Z-list ’celebs’.
If the end of that last paragraph is ringing some bells with you then chances are you’re a disillusioned journo yourself.
If you haven’t got the breaks you feel you deserve or are finding it difficult to progress to the next rung on the ladder then it’s only natural you’ll start to question your choice of career. But don’t start looking for resignation letter templates just yet. Remember that all people in all professions experience occupational lows at some point or another, so, instead of dwelling on the negatives, you should instead try and rediscover the spark that got you into journalism in the first place. One of the best ways to do this is to watch a film that will reignite your passion for the industry and inspire you, once more, to be the best journalist you possibly can.
So which film(s) should you watch?
Here are ten stellar options that are pretty much guaranteed to hit the mark...
All the President’s Men
No list of inspirational journo films is complete without this classic, frequently lauded as the best film in the genre ever made. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, the movie tells the true story of how two Washington Post reporters, Carl Woodward and Bob Bernstein, worked tirelessly to uncover the Watergate scandal, an event which eventually led to the resignation of then US President, Richard Nixon. The brilliance of this movie (aside from the mesmeric performances) is that it reminds journalists – even those who may believe themselves to be largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things – that they have the potential power to make a truly significant difference in the world.
Based on the true story of a group of journalists (the Balibo Five) who were captured and killed in the lead up to the 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor, Balibo is a harrowing account of how dangerous war reporting can be, and – ultimately – how horrific it is when things go wrong. Although clearly very troubling (and moving), this film is nothing if not inspirational as it conveys the sacrifices made by those who risk their lives reporting from conflict zones in a way that demands admiration and awe from the viewer.
Good Night and Good Luck
A wonderfully atmospheric film which does a sterling job of chronicling the battles US Senator Joseph McCarthy and American broadcast journalist Edward R Murrow had with eachother during the height of the USA’s turbulent ’war’ on the threat of domestic communism in the 1950s. As well as holding a mirror up to the responsibility those in the media have to society at large, this film also illustrates quite artfully the power journalists have to hold people in power to account.
This film is often lauded as a ’must-see’ for female journalists as it tells the incredible story of how Irish reporter Veronica Guerin managed to establish herself in a deeply sexist industry, and uncover corruption in the press and police force at the same time. The real beauty of this movie is that it reminds journalists – even those with inordinate odds stacked against them – that tenacity and conviction can go a long, long way in this industry.
On the Front Line
This is an incredible piece of documentary film making from Jeremy Bowen, one of the BBC’s most engaging and admired foreign correspondents. Bowen really doesn’t pull any punches, highlighting with stark detail and brutal honestly the difficulties war reporters face as they are forced to live in the midst of what is often incomprehensible human suffering so that they can ’break the story’. Bowen’s dedication and professionalism, along with his ability to consistently deliver reports that compel the world to sit up and take notice, is utterly inspiring.
This entrant is included as a sort of anti-inspiration film. In essence, Shattered Glass recounts the true story of how American journalist (Stephen Glass) fabricated a huge number of articles for the highly regarded New Republic magazine during the 1990s. If anything, this movie acts as a clear warning to any and all journalists who might feel inclined to ’jazz up’ their copy for editorial purposes. Don’t do it – you will get caught.
State of Play (2009 version)
Based on the classic BBC series of the same name, this is a modern reworking of the ever popular ’political skullduggery versus journalistic integrity’ tale. A great cast, along with a nod to the increasing value of blogging, makes this an enjoyable and thoroughly contemporary thriller with a very strong and inspirational message throughout.
The Killing Fields
Much like Balibo, this is not an easy film to watch at times. Indeed, the film’s attempts to fully convey the horror of the civil war in Cambodia through the eyes of two journalists were so vivid and compelling that the The Killing Fields won an Oscar for best cinematography at the 1985 Academy Awards. If you’re thinking of becoming a foreign correspondent (or jacking it in) then this is definitely something you should watch beforehand: inspiring and terrifying in equal measure.
The Year of Living Dangerously
The Year of Living Dangerously follows a group of foreign correspondents based in Jakarta on the eve of the attempted coup by the 30 September Movement to overthrow Indonesian President Sukarno in 1965. Although far too much air time is given to the love story between Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver, the film comes up trumps elsewhere, especially with its portrayal of how challenging it can be for journalists to work with other journalists during times of unrest. Watch this and you’ll be reminded of how beneficial it can be to work with your contemporaries rather than against them.
Let’s face it, sometimes you just need to laugh at this business and when all is said and done it’s fair to say few journo characters hit the mark quite like San Diego’s finest, Ron Burgundy. Put the DVD on, turn your brain off for an hour-and-a-half and imagine how cool it would be to work with Ron and the gang in the news room. And if you’re looking for inspiration, don’t forget: you’re kind of a big deal..!
Image courtesy of theyoungfolks.com, All the President’s Men