Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Message on Journalism Comes from a Weird Place

Okay, "gun to my head" my favorite genre of movies is romantic comedies.

Looks like I just got shot. I mean come on you are not clutching your Sno-Caps in suspense. You aren't gasping for air out of pure terror. You aren't weeping or sobbing uncontrollably (I'm not that sensitive guys). It is happy. The ending is safe and structured. And if the right "wingman" character is casted to waywardly aid his or her friend in their pursuit of love, you may gather a few giggles out of it.

So, that is precisely why I spent the night before Easter on the couch with my mother and sister viewing Morning Glory. It is a romantic comedy (surprise) starring Rachel McAdams (naturally), Diane Keaton (at least she was in the Godfather), and Harrison Ford. The latter sounds pretty badass. However, I'm here to assure you it wasn't.

I was shocked to discover as the movie wore on that it was extremely relevant to the modern media world. Harrison Ford plays a seasoned, grizzly veteran of the evening news desk. He champions hard news and content of journalistic value. He is paid by the network IBS (there's one of the giggles), but for the most part is retired from daily news.

McAdams plays an ambitious young producer who dreams of leading the Today Show from behind the scenes. She gets hired to salvage IBS' dreadful morning show and immediately fires Diane Keaton's co-host. She is given an ultimatum by the station to raise ratings to a certain level by a certain time, or the show would be pulled.

Through an arduous process of getting ridiculed and scoffed at, McAdams gets Ford to agree to co-anchor the morning show. What results is awful for ratings. Keaton attempts to show ersonality, while Ford sticks stubbornly to hard news stories. Eventually, the pair push the show to the brink of failure.

McAdams starts to turn the corner by sending their apprehensive and socially awkward weatherman across the country to participate in borderline stuntman activities. The ratings finally rise, though, when Ford does an investigative piece that leads to the arrest of the governor of New york (score one for journalism).

In the end, McAdams gets an offer from the Today Show and turns it down to work with Ford. At first, Ford was incredibly reluctant to embrace the entertainment side of the show. But in an emotional and tense moment at the end of the movie Ford caves in and makes his favorite egg breakfast dish on the air. Ultimately, it was the content that was the polar opposite of journalism that raised the ratings and pushed the show over the top.

Again, this was just a movie, but it still held some interesting insights to the television world. The Today Show is a great example. Matt Lauer and Ann Curry are capable of doing and have done tremendous journalistic work. However, it is their ability to do the other stuff that sets them apart.

Oh, I should mention that throughout the movie Rachel McAdams was falling in love. Regretfully, it was not with Harrison Ford. But him and Diane Keaton was a better match in the end anyway.

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