I must confess: I love the movie Anchorman. It is the favorite movie of many a TV newsperson, because it offers an opportunity to laugh at the sometimes ridiculous situations that arise in real life. It is like Ron Burgundy is in on the joke, offering comic relief when you’re having a bad day. For the outside world, however, it is merely a caricature of TV news.
Sure, there are bad apples in the bunch. And yes, I may have gifted a bottle of Glenlivet to one of my best friends this past Christmas. (You know who you are.) But, like the vast majority of movies and TV shows that depict the media, it does not reflect reality.
Here are seven common myths about the media perpetuated by movies and TV shows.
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1) A Reporter’s Life Is Glamorous
Contrary to popular belief, most TV reporters and anchors do not have hair and makeup professionals standing by. Nor do they have an assistant who shops for their clothes. Nor are they paid huge salaries. Main anchors in major markets often enjoy those perks. But the rest do not. In fact, I bought my makeup at Walmart and many of my anchor clothes at Goodwill.
I remember the moment I realized reporting was not a glamorous job. It is a very long story, but it ends with me peeing on the side of a dirt road next to a pile of frozen, decapitated animal carcasses. At one point, my favorite food item was a gas station sandwich.
The hours are long and exhausting. There’s no such thing as a leisurely lunch break during which cocktails and cigarettes are served. And I’ve yet to see a flask of hard liquor in the desk drawer of a reporter. (Or maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough.)
Unlike the shiny sets on screen, newsrooms are typically dingy places. Every time my mom stepped foot inside a newsroom with me, the first comment out of her mouth was about how dirty the place was. Believe me, no one was offended. Because it was true. There are mouse traps and mouse droppings and dust balls and sweaty cheese. (Yes, according to a photog, that’s a thing.)
So why the hell do people do this job? Why do they put up with all of the above? Because it gets in your blood. It is rewarding and fulfilling. And it is thrilling and fun.
The folks who survive have earned their stripes. It shows they’re in it for the right reasons. And, more often than not, it is proof that you can trust them to do their job well.
2) All Anchors & Reporters Are Divas
Much of what you just read helps to debunk this myth. If you’re putting up with mouse poop, you are likely not a diva. Sure, there are bad apples in every bunch. But the vast majority of folks who serve as on-air “talent” are really nice people.
Sure, some are quirky. Some act like know-it-alls. Some are extremely insecure. Some are even really shy. But at the end of the day, they are normal people who put their pants on one leg at a time.
There’s no reason to be intimidated by them. Be nice to them and they’ll be nice to you.
3) They Have An Endless Supply Of Grit & Determination
Reporters are folks who every single day are under crazy pressure to find an exclusive, lead story. Every day is a test met with blood, sweat and tears. The big story they accomplish on Monday is forgotten by Tuesday. The stories they cover are often depressing.
For those reasons and more, the burnout rate is high. Keeping up that kind of pace is impossible. And so sometimes they slack off and go after an easy story that was properly pitched by a seasoned PR professional. (Am I laying this on a little too thick?)
4) They’re All “Out To Get You”
Sure, they dream about chasing the rich and powerful down the sidewalk in their high heels, demanding answers in order to expose a seedy scandal deep inside the walls of City Hall. But let’s get real.
Most reporters don’t like confrontation anymore than you do. They just want to get their story in the can and go home.
5) They Wine & Dine With The Powerful & Elite
The powerful and elite don’t like the press. They look down their noses at reporters. They spend their days avoiding them like the plague.
And even if the powerful and elite genuinely liked a reporter, newsies aren’t paid well enough to keep up.
6) They Are Handed Their Daily Assignments On A Silver Platter
The movies don’t reveal the fact that lead stories don’t grow on trees. Finding a story is the single most difficult task a reporter faces every day.
That’s why, in my opinion, we see so much crime in the press. It’s easier to chase scanner traffic in order to fill a news hole than to track down stories that truly impact the public at large.
7) TV Photographers Don’t Use Tripods
My husband shoots video for a living. (We met in a newsroom. Isn’t that cute?) And it never fails. Every time a TV show or movie shows a photog shooting off the shoulder, he gets instantly irritated. Because it’s just not how it works in real life.
Sure, sometimes they don’t use a tripod. Like the one time a year they’re running down the street chasing after that scandal in City Hall. But 90% of the time, they use (or should use) a tripod.
So, yes, it takes a little time to get set up for an interview. Use that time to be nice to them. And they’ll be nice to you.
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