Although most people would be ashamed to admit such a thing, I majored in journalism back in college. Now before you recoil in horror, understand that times were different then. Ronald Reagan was still president, and while I still didn’t fully understand the problem of bias in reporting, news editors were at least concerned about the appearance of objectivity and there were still enough of the old-timers left who actually knew the difference between being a reporter and being a pundit.
Because I wanted to be a network news correspondent, one of my favorite films of the time was, naturally, Broadcast News. Writer-director James L. Brooks spent a couple of years actually working in a newsroom to get the feel for the characters there, and crafted a brilliant screenplay that framed the story around a love triangle between Jane, a high-strung producer; Tom, a handsome but clueless anchorman; and Aaron, a shoe-leather reporter who is warching the business he loves so much changing into shallow, ratings-driven infotainment.
Back then, you see, the biggest ethical issue in television news was sacrificing the hard-edged, important stuff for the kind of fluff that drew in more viewers. There was also the problem of the star system, in which pretty faces who couldn’t even write were being presented to the public as actual journalists. And finally, there was the emergence of the news personality, who was at least as important–if not more so–as the stories they were reporting. Aaron neatly summarizes the problem in an epic rant, saying, “Let’s never forget, we’re the real story, not them!”
I’m guessing that Jim Acosta has never seen Broadcast News.
If the CNN reporter had, he might have thought twice about making an ass of himself (again) the other day after President Trump gave a statement about the events in Charlottesville, Virginia:
As that announcement ended, Acosta asked Trump if reporters could ask him questions about his remarks on Charlottesville.
“It doesn’t bother me at all, but I like real news, not fake news,” Trump said, pointing at Acosta. “You’re fake news.”
To which Acosta responded with a zinger that got him so excited, he couldn’t wait to post it to Twitter:
Yes and I responded: "haven't you spread a lot of fake news yourself, sir?" https://t.co/Cz1Aks3cIj
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 14, 2017
Two things here: First, Acosta is showing a degree of professionalism more commonly associated with time-share rental hucksters. Yes, I understand that there’s a feud between Trump and CNN–but as a reporter, Acosta isn’t supposed to care about that. His job is to gather facts so that his network can disseminate them to its viewers. Acosta, however, seems far more interested in calling attention to himself because in his mind, he’s the story–not Donald Trump.
Second, Acosta’s shtick here isn’t even original. With that “sir” business, he sounds like he’s trying to ape Dan Rather that time he dissed Richard Nixon back in 1974. Considering what happened to Rather’s career after Memogate, perhaps Acosta should consider a more credible role model. Like Carrot Top.
Then pop some corn and watch Broadcast News. He might learn a thing or two.