Journalists in the Movies

I am closing on my last few semesters as a graduate student in the Digital Journalism and Design program at USF. This semester, I took a fascinating course called "Journalists in the Movies". From the ten movies watched this semester, the overall impression of how journalists were portrayed is balanced. Some movies, such as "Spotlight" and "All The President's Men" portray journalism as a career meant for those with only the purest of intentions, those of sterling character. Conversely, movies such as "Nightcrawler" and "Absence of Malice" portray the darker side of journalism: if one were to only view these two movies about reporters, a person could easily see how their impression of the press would be jaded and suspicious.

In truth, our professor did an excellent job of curating a collection of films that represent the varied personality types and ethical temperatures of a complex and storied group of people such as journalists. Journalism, much like anything in life, is made up of a melting pot of different intentions, agendas and belief systems. Historically, I think journalists have enjoyed an elevated position in the minds of the general public (much of it due to movies such as "All the President's Men"); however, it seems as though with the advent of the 24-hour news cycle and the internet age, most people are more cynical now toward the institution of journalism, citing such issues as bias reporting, fake news, and press pandering to one political party or another. Movies about journalism seem to represent rather fairly the wide range of people that inhabit these reporter roles. When journalism-based movies are viewed together as a whole, somehow, Hollywood seems to have gotten it right this time. Journalists are people, and people are human. The human condition exists throughout all time and through all occupations.

Now for a lighter perspective: the Seth Meyer's spoof on reporters had me laughing out of my seat. One thing that drove me crazy through most of the movies was the incessant cacophony of typewriter keys for scenes in the newsroom. I think the spoof is more a funny peek into the composition techniques and shot sequences that filmmakers use when filming journalist movies more than it speaks about journalism itself. Filmmakers enjoy using tried and true shot sequences when filming (and for good reason - because they work) and journalism movies are no exception. The dirty styrofoam cups, the threadbare reporter's apartment, and the long pregnant pauses from the editor are done to death but for good reason: they are painting a picture, a mood and a feeling about the landscape of news. They are taking the viewer somewhere they have never been and most likely never will go, which is what filmmaking is about. I think although some elements of the films are trite, for the most part they are harmless and are fairly accurate representations of a place and a moment in time.

Fundamental Leaps and Peripheral Transmutations

Let's go back in time - way back in time - to A Revolution. Let us do this so as to more deeply understand our present time period. Let's take it back to the very beginnings of our country, where we were only colonies burgeoning with not much more than pipe dreams and possibility. How did we get to where we are now? What exactly was the American Revolution and who exactly was it fought for? What were the ideals behind each group and how can we use the lessons of the past to help us maneuver our current mental and emotional landscapes?

A boy and a girl, both aged two grow up together as siblings in the same home with the same parents. Both children are well-taken care of and tended to, being fed the same foods, given the same warm beds to tuck into each night and the same caring, parental arms to embrace them should distress cross their young minds. However, when the young boy goes off to school to be educated, his mind cultivated for the challenges he will meet as an adult, the girl is “confined and limited” to the duties of the home. One is empowered and encouraged to explore the corners of his young and unfolding intellect, the other falls victim and is deterred by unconscious, prohibitive yet customary child-rearing practices. Although by their nature the boy and girl are intellectual equals, the boy goes on to accomplish a great many achievements, while the girl grows into a bitter woman, and because her mind is untrained by proper education, giving her the ability to reflect on greater ideas, her diminished sense of self diminished, she is thus preoccupied by destructive pastimes such as gossip, and other such trifling thoughts such as “the mechanism of a pudding, or the sewing the seams of a garment".(Murray, 14) 

“As their years increase, the sister must be wholly domesticated, while the brother is lead by the hand through all the flowery paths of science. Grant that their minds are by nature equal, yet we shall wonder at the apparent superiority, if indeed custom becomes second nature; nay, if it take the place of nature, and that it doth the experience of each day will evince.” (Murray   )

This anecdote as described by Judith Sargent Murray in her most important work, the feminist essay, On the Equality of the Sexes, illustrates the world as experienced by women before, during and after the American Revolution. The essay analyzes and criticizes the traditional cultural narrative of male superiority as it relates to the abridgment of female education and its effects on the overall mental and financial enterprises of the female population. The essay was published in the era of the revolution, a time when fundamental leaps in a country’s independence were made in addition to many less visible, peripheral transmutations. Although it is obvious that the clearest winners of the American Revolution were the free white men, women, African Americans and although on a much smaller scale the Native Americans, did in fact benefit from the revolution when the progressions made during the era is viewed through the lens intangible success – many seeds for future equality were sown - as opposed overt expression of liberty.

During the 1760s and 1770s women’s domestic activities took on great political meaning: when men went off to become soldiers, it was the women that began to take ownership of the responsibilities of running the family farms and businesses. Women were slowly moving into more traditional male roles and learned to excel at hiring farm workers and selling crops. Such ownership of these ventures can be attested to in the letters that wives wrote to their husbands during the war – one example being that women had evolved from earlier periods in the war when describing the family farms as “yours” (the husband’s) to “ours” and more so several years later going so far as to call the farms “mine”.  Such ownership – even though mostly in thought though in deed as well – would not have transpired had it not been for the revolutionary landscape of the time.

Women benefited from the revolution in another way as well: a republican motherhood became the newest credo for women. Because Americans knew that their republican government would fail unless ordinary men lived and breathed political virtue, it became the responsibility of women to instill this patriotism in their sons and daughters, making motherhood and child-rearing a civic act. One could say, emboldened by the spirit of the revolutionary times, the collective American mind had been opened so as to receive such radical ideas as espoused in Murray’s On the Equality of the Sexes. The need to have mothers properly instruct their children in virtue, to fulfill this republican motherhood, was a catalyst for new fields becoming available to women in history, philosophy, and political theory. In her essay, Murray argued that women are not intellectually or otherwise inferior to men, but in fact have been extremely prohibited in the development of their mental faculties, stating that the “province of imagination hath long since been surrendered to us” and that traditional female roles such as “seamstress” and “chef” do not bring out the breadth of expansive creativity that lie dormant because education has been deprived to them. During these times of the early republic, there were a great many that did believe a woman’s place was solely in the domestic realm – what changed after the American Revolution was that there was now a space for women like Murray to make her voice heard – a voice that was in stark contrast to the conventional themes carried on by generations , a voice that spoke of such treatment as degrading treatment such as the denial to access to education.

Yet as with most progress comes the inevitable downslope and although there were many wins for women, there was still a long way to go in terms of suffrage and the change in inheritance laws which placed them still at a severe disadvantage.  However, prior to the revolution, women did not dare think that they might be intellectual equal to men or even imagine a future where they may one day have the right to put their skills as farmers and shopkeepers out into the public. Although not perfect, these rumblings that were cracking the traditional foundations believed in until revolutionary times, set the stage and signaled to a future of women’s rights including that of the all-important female right to vote.

When the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783 the American Revolutionary War came to an end, giving the colonies independence from Britain, and with it, came the most important and overt “win” for Americans, particularly free, white men. In Common Sense, Thomas Paine says, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now.” Women were not the only group concerned with their general admittance to assorted opportunities, education, and social position. For African Americans, the world post-revolutionary war was complicated. When the cotton gin was invented, growing cotton became immensely profitable, and planters required more land and slave labor. Conversely, the American Revolution allowed thousands of black Americans their freedom as well. In the north, many slaves went to claim freedom, with Massachusetts and Vermont abolishing slavery, planting the seeds of its future extinction. The African-American’s dedication to freedom and removal from a slave society is illustrated in the story of a slave named Thomas Peters. Joining the British military in 1776, as a sergeant in a unit of support troops, when Britain evacuated New York 1783, approximately 10,000+ attained their freedom by fighting for Britain, where they were settled in Nova Scotia after the war and Peters became the leader of a large group of black loyalists that “argued that the British had not lived up to their promises of land grants and fair treatment in exchange for their loyalty and service” and “…Peters convinced the British to resettle 1,200 black loyalists in Sierra Leone, Africa, a British colony” ( It was here that they lived as free men with their own government, and served as the foundation for what was to be the modern African republic. Again, although imperfect, the revolutionary era did provide a humble, yet, important chasm dividing the old way from a beacon of possibility for the future.

While there was a mixed bag of achievements and shortcomings from the female and black populations resulting from the revolutionary era, of all the groups populating this time period, the Native Americans suffered the biggest blows and experienced what many consider “an unmitigated disaster.” It had become clear to the Indians that an independent America would prove a much greater challenge to Indian interests than a maintained British alliance. Native Americans were not represented at the bargaining table in Paris and despite the fact that Britain had never purchased the region between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, they ceded this area to the former colonists despite the substantial amount of aid the Native Americans provided to Britain. In additional to the fact that the protection of 1763 was gone, settlers could move west of the Appalachian Mountains, now considered “free territory” although already inhabited by Native Americans. Lastly, not only where the Native Americans absent from the Treaty of Paris, they are also absent from the musical Hamilton. Gary Nash believes African Americans to be the forgotten people; however, it appears as though the Native Americans are the true invisible people of the revolutionary era – and beyond. While most groups went on to experience future success, freedom and individual rights (the Native Americans received but a modicum of recognition, comparatively speaking), it was not until later down the line that the real changes took root. As Dr. Snyder said in the July 7, 2017 video lesson, Repercussions, “If the vast majority of Americans of the founding era received few lasting benefits of the American Revolution, I would argue that the long term prospect was brighter.” Truly, during the founding era, women, African Americans and Native Americans did not receive equal treatment yet the seeds had been planted. There was no going back to the archaic ways of being or thinking pre-revolution. Once the idea of equality had occurred to women, to blacks, there was no “un-thinking” it. Every revolution begins in the minds of the people, and those thoughts - although may seem paltry to what the spirit and scope a revolution inherently promises – are the humble beginnings for great change. Who won the revolution? Everyone won, because “…the whole subsequent history of the United States can be truly summed up as a struggle between the ideals of the declaration of independence the circumstances of its creation and the prospect to which all of these ideals finally came to fruition.” (Synder) It may have seemed that the free white men had yet again triumphed over the vast majority, yet the peripheral transmutations were the beacons of freedom yet to be bestowed.


Unchallenged Sweetness

Standing at the kitchen counter, I take a bite of the strawberry. Its impeccability, its consummate sweetness fills the corners of my mouth and I pause. How is this strawberry so entirely perfect? How, without even trying, is this piece of fruit so absolutely flawless in this moment of time? This strawberry and its effortless perfection reassures me. I breathe deep and take another bite. 

Relinquish control and gain infinite possibility and unchallenged sweetness. Let go the questions, searches, tattered ideas. Step into the realm of the simple, uncomplicated yet exhilarating way.

Each New Level of Mastery Demands A New and Different You

There are times when I am in the middle of doing something and I have a thought, inspiration or new idea that I want to expound upon and remember, but don't feel like writing it down in my planner. In these instances, I make a voice recording on my phone. I recorded myself this morning during my pole training because I had a revelation that relieved much of the frustration and the feeling "stuck" I have been experiencing for the past week. I'm talking here about a block - not just a a challenge to my mental or physical bodies (comparatively speaking, that type of challenge is relatively easy to push through). This block wasn't clearing up no matter what I did and it was really starting to bother me. What I saw this morning is that this block was actually opportunity in disguise. It was indicating to me that I had moved past my current level of mastery and was ready for something more expansive and complex. My tactics needed to be refined. 

This recording is scary to share publicly because it was recorded for my personal use but doing scary things typically yields the result I seek in each new level of mastery I pass through. 

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
— Marcus Aurelius

Used To Your Advantage

I wrote this entry in my notebook just now and I share it here. I don't normally share personal notebook entries publicly, but today is different. If you can't read my handwriting, I typed it below.

Every day has been bringing revelation and humbling. When you shift into an elevated state of living, it's not always going to feel wonderful 100% of the time - at first. Things will come to the surface that feel uncomfortable. You can look at them and discard them, making way for the new, elevated state of being or you can cavort with them and instead stay where you are, where you've always been.

The uncomfortable thoughts/feelings that came up are supremely convincing and it can feel almost impossible to not engage with them. See them clearly for what they are: signals of old habitual trains of thought to be used to your advantage. Think of them as signals from beyond pointing you were to go, how to get to where you wish to be. Everyone's path is different, what my pathway is will be different than anyone else's so there are no hard and fast rules.

You can stay and live in this world or come into the world of your dreams.

Miracles 1 and 2 of the day. 

A Post From The Past

Once in a while I repost one of my blog entries from the past either because I have nothing to write about currently or because I like to revisit things I liked. This video was pretty popular and even though I shot it almost two years ago, I still hear about "that cat-walking video in the crazy heels" to this day. 


I can't turn down a dare, that's why. And also, because why the f*ck not?

The Only Things That Matter

Many people have a tendency to see little limitations in their loved ones, areas that they could improve upon that would "make them better". These limitations include such notions as "I wish she cleaned the house more" to "I'd prefer it if he didn't do ______" and I think we can all understand certain sentiments; however, perhaps we would all be happier if we instead focused on the unique, positive characteristics that our loved ones have instead of seeing where they "fall short". I put these words in quotes because it's not true that people are falling short - we only see that because that is the lens that we are choosing to view them through. That we are seeing faults in these people that we love so much is our fault.  Think about if that person would be gone from your life today - I can almost guarantee you that you would missing that person so much and all the wonderful things that they offered you and you wouldn't care about those little things that you wished were different before. Let's all try to appreciate and love our friends and significant others exactly for who they are, not who we think they  should be. Everyone has their own special talents and gifts that they offer and there is no such thing as a prescribed way that a woman or a man or a friend should be.

For example, men do not need to fall under the category that they should make a ton of money in order to be men nor do women need to be the perfect Suzy Homemaker in order to be the perfect woman. These societal expectations and ideals are damaging to our special (and yes, PERFECT) personalities and quirks. If you find yourself at any point focusing on a perceived negative quality about your loved one, try this instead: find one or two things that when you initially met your friend or lover stood out to you as so cool and awesome and so unlike anyone you'd ever met before. These things are the ONLY things that matter. Besides, it is my belief that when you focus so much on the good, the less savory aspects fall away from your attention and voila! You don't even think about them anymore and it's all good, right? 

Note: I am not speaking of friendships or relationships that are abusive or dysfunctional. I am speaking of solid, loving relationships with people that are good and healthy for us, people that we are safe and secure with, that by all counts are our Forever Type Love friendships and relationships.