State of Play, the Hollywood remake of Paul Abbot’s six-part thriller, is bound to be politely reviewed by my colleagues because it portrays journalists in a sympathetic light. Indeed, Russell Crowe, who plays a fearless reporter, constantly reminds his cost-conscious editor of the vital role performed by journalists in the democratic process. Without us, he points out, there will be no one to hold corrupt politicians to account.
As I watched the film in a screening theatre, surrounded by my fellow hacks, I wondered why it is that a Hollywood studio has decided to lavish all these resources on a eulogy to our profession. After all, newspaper reporters are usually portrayed as sleazebags in Hollywood movies. Could it be that the imminent death of journalism has awakened them to some of our redeeming qualities?
Any illusions I had were soon shattered. About five minutes into the film, there is a key scene between Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams, who plays a blogger working for the same paper. She asks him if he would like to comment on a story she is writing about an old friend of his and, after establishing that she has done no reporting for the story, he makes a withering remark about the unreliability of blogs. They are fluff, as far as he’s concerned, and she has no right to call herself a journalist. Shortly afterwards, McAdams sees the error of her ways and for the rest of the film she sits at the feet of the master, learning how to be a proper reporter.
Clearly, the powers-that-be in Hollywood have not come round to seeing the point of journalism. It is just that their hatred of bloggers is so great that they’ll use any stick to beat them with.