Created By: AGroupieApril 25, 2011 Last Edited By: AGroupieMarch 14, 2012

Artistic License - Journalism

Fiction writers (and occasionally nonfiction writers themselves) getting nonfiction writing wrong.

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Trope
Needs More Examples, I'm only listing some of the most blatant ones I can think of.

This trope has two subtypes: type A is writers who are journalists themselves depicting journalism (or worse, doing journalism) with a large dose of artistic license, and type B would be writers who have never wrote nonfiction and have no experience with nonfiction writing suddenly deciding they want to write journalists.


  • The Lone Reporter. While it's true that many articles still carry the byline of one author/reporter, newsgathering and reporting is a collaborative effort involving many people at every step along the way. While the lone, crusading Knight Templar reporter may be an ideal or fantasy for many writers, it is not the reality of reporting news in any major setting (and likely never has been for many years.)
  • Da Editor as the sole fact checker and gatekeeper of a media institution
  • Confusion of the headline and lead
  • Newspapers' print editions being a primary news source to the public in or after The Noughties (online editions, Twitter, and 24 hour news networks are that now) unless you have a VERY good reason for this being a Justified Trope in the future
  • Confusion between primary and secondary sources (e.g. a primary source is someone you're interviewing or direct documentation, a secondary would be one already cited by other media or material found by a third party)
  • Plagiarism being a slap-on-the-wrist offense when it's actually pretty much a career-ending one for most reporters.
  • The plagiarist as Karma Houdini in or after The Noughties
  • Outdated technology being used by a reporter or newsroom that would have no legitimate reason for using it (e.g. no one after late in The Nineties would be using a typewriter)


Specific tropes on this index would be (again, needs more, this is just a skeleton):
  • Da Editor - when depicted as the sole person in charge of a media outlet
  • Intrepid Reporter - When they're depicted as a Lone Reporter or get far more involved in the story than real reporters do.
  • Hot Reporter / Hot Scoop when the "hotness" takes away from her professional capabilities or ESPECIALLY her ability to work (for example, putting a battlefield war correspondent in stiletto heels and a micro mini skirt)
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: A result of journalists mistaking themselves for entertainment writers.
  • One Hour Work Week when applied to professional journalists: reporting is not usually an easy job with very low time requirements.
    • Even if the job description is originally "easy," unforeseen events may make it very difficult or busy. Just ask the writers who probably thought writing for Time Out Tokyo would just be nightlife reviews or such - and who ended up doing award-winning and vital coverage of the 3-11 2011 earthquake.
  • School Newspaper News Hound - When they have an "absurdly elaborate school paper with production values and writing quality that real commercial newspapers would envy" or "report about events around the city or town that the story is set in" (instead of just the school they attend).
    • Occasionally but not commonly Truth In Television in regard to college newspapers: as long as the city or town events were of major note or have impact on the college itself, they may well be covered - but this is a rarity and does NOT happen for high school or middle school.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: While still *possibly* applicable to papers due to the time between publication and events happening after publication, and arguably occurs on a meta version with "entertainment" and "fluff" stories getting more attention, the worst cases of this are often averted with "wall to wall" coverage at least at the beginning of a truly major disaster or war or world event now.

Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • April 27, 2011
    Speedball
    This is a good trope and I want to see more of it elaborated upon. I can't think of examples at this moment, but I'll get back to you.
  • April 28, 2011
    bbofun
    You know "writing" and "journalism" are not the same thing, right? Not everyone who writes fiction has worked at a newspaper. Those who have, and still fall into these traps are somewhat different than writers who have never actually been reporters, and create a character who is a reporter. I'm not saying one is better than the other. but your second paragraph damns them all together.
  • April 28, 2011
    bbofun
    Still a good trope. if you're looking for examples, well, in comic books, there are the staffs of the Daily Planet and the Daily Bugle, generally. Movies have The Paper (The Ron Howard movie) and a notable aversion in All The Presidents Men, basically because that was a true story, written by the people who lived it.

    Let's see- Comic strips have Brenda Starr, while TV has Lou Grant (which tried to be an aversion at times, but ended up pretty much playing it straight).
  • April 29, 2011
    jaytee
    Sex And The City Job or whatever it's called can overlap with this.
  • April 29, 2011
    jaytee
    One Hour Work Week, that's what I'm thinking of. Sex And The City is just a good example of that overlapping with this. No freelance reporter/columnist lives that well/works that little.
  • May 25, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    Bump. i agree with bbofun. This is a good trope, but axe the stuff about writers should know about journalists, because being a novelist and being a journalist are completely different jobs, they just happen to both involve writing at some point.
  • December 4, 2011
    AGroupie
    Looking for five hats to see if this would be a good index to launch.
  • December 5, 2011
    Arivne
    Specific tropes on this index:
    • Intrepid Reporter - When they're depicted as a Lone Reporter or get far more involved in the story than real reporters do.
    • School Newspaper News Hound - When they have an "absurdly elaborate school paper with production values and writing quality that real commercial newspapers would envy" or "report about events around the city or town that the story is set in" (instead of just the school they attend).
  • December 5, 2011
    AGroupie
    Thanks!
  • December 16, 2011
    AGroupie
    YKTTW BUMP
  • December 21, 2011
    AGroupie
    bumpies again ;)
  • January 15, 2012
    AGroupie
    Left Behind pretty much defines this trope: every single depiction of journalists or journalism in it is Artistic License. Especially glaring since one of the main characters is allegedly not just a journalist but one of the world's top journalists.
  • January 16, 2012
    KJMackley
    Home Improvement had Randy's high school article on Binford's pollution record start a small riot on "Tool Time." Several problems (besides how likely a high school paper would cause such a stir) was Randy was behaving as though respectable journalism was writing hard hitting opinion based pieces when any non editorial should be neutral. Tim got Randy an interview with Bud, the CEO of Binford, where he outlined a long term plan to reduce pollution but Randy seemingly ranted only about their use of legal business maneuvers that affected the environment.
  • March 14, 2012
    Catbert
    What does this accomplish that News Tropes and the tropes listed therein does not?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable