December 12, 2019

THE PRESS WANTS US TO BELIEVE THE WORST OF OTHERS, BUT ONLY THE BEST ABOUT ITSELF: Why is everyone pretending reporters never sleep with sources? The Twitter reaction to Richard Jewell is completely expected and completely contrived.

The excuse for going after Eastwood this time is the portrayal of Kathy Scruggs, the reporter for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution whose work targeted Jewell for the bombing. In the film, there’s a scene apparently (I say apparently because, much like Joker, a swath of journalists are jumping to conclusions on the content of the film rather than waiting to see it, of course) where the Scruggs character, played by Olivia Wilde, hints at offering sexual favors to an FBI source in return for details regarding Jewell and the case. The current editors of the AJC are even threatening Warner Brothers with a lawsuit citing defamation unless a disclaimer is added to the front title cards of the film: something that already exists, and has already existed in the credits of just about every single biographical film ever made. But that’s not good enough.

This plot device of course has Twitter journalists raging mad about something they describe as a ‘sexist trope’, which ‘doesn’t even happen at all’. Except it has happened, and as recently as two months ago. Jeffrey Young, senior reporter for HuffPost tweeted ‘The lazy, offensive, shitty way screenwriters so often treat female journalists infuriates me. Depicting women using sex to get stories is disgusting and disrespectful. It’s also hacky as hell. I was planning to see this movie but not anymore.’ Melissa Gomez of the Los Angeles Times wrote ‘Hollywood has, for a long time, portrayed female journalists as sleeping with sources to do their job. It’s so deeply wrong, yet they continue to do it. Disappointing that they would apply this tired and sexist trope about Kathy Scruggs, a real reporter.’ Susan Fowler, an opinion editor at the New York Times tweeted ‘The whole “female journalist sleeps with a source for a scoop” trope doesn’t even make any sense tbh like what does Hollywood think journalism is???’ By the end of the night on Monday, ‘Eastwood’ was the top trend in the United States.

Susan Fowler apparently doesn’t read her own newspaper, which just last year reported on the three-year affair between (surprise), New York Times reporter Ali Watkins and James Wolfe, a senior aide to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a frequent source for her stories. In October of this year, an employee of the United States Defense Intelligence Agency was arrested for leaking classified material to two reporters, one of which he was involved in a romantic relationship with (this was allegedly CNBC reporter Amanda Macias.) It should be noted that both Watkins and Macias are still employed by the Times and CNBC. Not only does it appear the practice of sleeping with sources for information is more than a mere trope, it seems it’s something not punished by newsrooms.

That’s different because shut up.

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