Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Libya and Broadcast News

Muammar Gaddafi and Libya have been in the news the past few days. Normally when I think of Libya or Gaddafi - I think of three things:

1. The US Marines (and the shores of Tripoli)
2. Ronald Reagan ordering the bombing of Libya in response to the bombing of a West Berlin disco which killed two American servicemen
3. The 1987 movie Broadcast News where Tom's big break comes during an emergency involving a Libyan fighter pilot bombing a US base in Egypt

I was looking for the quote in the movie where they described Gaddafi as "presidential" when I came across the entire script for the movie. Last night I was hooked - I had to read the whole thing. I came away surprised.

I've seen the movie perhaps a dozen times and my take-away has always been that the movie was a defense of journalistic ethics and the demise of those ethics in modern TV media. I am not sure if it was even intentional but reading the actual script you can't come away not liking Tom Grunick. The people defending journalistic ethics come off as jerks who are more likely defending their intellectual superiority more than anything else.

Tom is written as everyman - except much better looking. He becomes successful not just because he's good looking though but because he's a decent person who treats people with respect. In the script Tom gets an important source of hard news because he simply treats the person nicely while Aaron (Albert Brooks in the movie) is dismissive of the person as not worth his time. While others treat the female reporter Jennifer as a tramp who slept her way to her position - Tom treats her as the girl next door. The assistant producer who is the butt of everyone’s joke he treats with respect. He’s the only one to ask the opinion of the guy who runs the editing machine. In the script Aaron is taken aback when Tom helps him because such camaraderie is foreign to him. Tom is the only decent person (besides his father) in the script.

Aaron ends up thinking Tom is the Devil because in his world the Golden Rule doesn't apply when you always consider yourself the smartest person in the room.

I couldn't help but think how much has changed since the movie came out in 1987. A Tom Grunick couldn't exist today because the role and influence of broadcast news has been so diminished. A Tom Grunick of today probably would have stayed in sports and if the movie Broadcast News came out today it would be a complete flop.

No comments:

Post a Comment