My friend Alyssa Rosenberg wondered the other day why there aren’t more movies about journalism, which from my perspective is like asking why there aren’t more movies about accounting. Matthew Yglesias, in responding, dragged me into this:
I think the issue here is just that not enough happens in journalism. I’ve watched Spencer Ackerman report out some pretty good stories. It involved a certain amount of looking stuff up online, a great deal of waiting for people to return phone calls, some taking notes, some talking. And then you kind of need to do it all over again. Filling out FOIA requests is important, but watching someone do it would be deadly dull.
Alyssa replies here and I have no stake in the argument. But I will say this. If you were to make a movie of my workday today, it would center around my acquisition of some intriguing-but-incomplete information about something important, followed by my utter failure at confirming it. The drama in that scene would pivot to a certain phone call in which I laid out relevant portions of the aforementioned information to an individual involved in this particular affair, only to be told there would be no reply and I shouldn’t read anything into that non-reply one way or another. Then I would longingly eye the bottle of Excedrin I keep next to my phone.
Scene two would feature an internal monologue about whether I should say fuck it and just put the shit out there, caveated as single-sourced and anonymously-sourced information, especially when imagining my inevitable heartburn if/when a competitor reports the stuff out there. The monologue would end with me deciding there’s just no responsible way of doing that, even if competitors of mine decide otherwise. The scene would give way to an interminable coda of regret, recrimination and second-guesswork. Possibly suitable for either the director’s cut or the deleted scenes.
No one in his or her right mind would want to watch this movie, and it’s not particularly pleasant to act in, either.