"Do we have a free press today? Sure. It's free to report all the sex scandals, all the stock market news, [and] every new health fad that comes down the pike. But when it comes to the real down and dirty stuff" Such stories are not even open for discussion.
In fiction, the news media will often be presented as less than impartial. The media outlet may churn out fluff pieces and slanted reporting praising the parent company or propaganda praising the government, and often Lowest Common Denominator
trash designed to keep the "sheeple"
They may be heavily biased toward one end of the political spectrum
, with only token, ineffectual representation
given to the other side. Which end, extreme conservative or extreme liberal, depends on
the political views of the writer
. Conspiracies are very likely to be involved.
Sometimes the media are given a shallow, even vapid, appearance. They are shown as caring more about celebrity hijinks, sensationalized violence
, and missing white women
than about things like wars, poverty and corruption that are affecting far more lives. These news desks will be staffed by men and women who look like they came out of a fashion magazine
rather than a journalism school. These are likely to display a bad case of Worst News Judgment Ever
and simply selling out for ratings
. Saying what people want to hear because people don't want to be told that they're living in a Crapsack World
. They want to escape from everything.
See also Old Media Are Evil
. Likely to be staffed by the Fox News Liberal
and the Pompous Political Pundit
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- In various tellings of Superman's origin, when Clark Kent arrives in Metropolis, the Daily Planet all the newspapers are controlled by Lex Luthor.
- In Ann Nocenti's final issue of her Daredevil run, the Kingpin decides that if he can't force newspapers to run or not run the stories he wants, he will start his own media empire.
Kingpin: What sells newspapers?
Underling: Crime... Tragedy... Violence...
Kingpin: Well then, we'll just have to start a war.
- The news show/comic "Around Cybertron" in Transformers: Shattered Glass. Every Autobot is forced to watch under penalty of death, and the news coverage alternates between slanderous anti-Decepticon propaganda, paparazzi-gathered stories, and If It Bleeds, It Leads.
- Surprisingly largely averted by J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man stories. While he is obviously biased by his stubborn hatred of superheroes, especially Spider-Man, Jameson otherwise has an impeccable reputation for being an honest and courageous journalist, whom even death threats by mobsters like The Kingpin cannot intimidate from exposing their villainy.
- There is a Touhou fic named Cirno News Network where the first headline is MORIYA SUWAKO ABANDONS FAITHFUL! Here is an excerpt:
"Angry followers vent their frustrations, with one calling for a new goddess named Cirno to take over the current earth goddess. Others agreed and began chanting in unison. Slogans such as 'All hail Cirno the Strongest', 'Freeze the frogs' and 'Cirno for Goddess' were among the popular chants."
- In Meet John Doe and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the media (and politics) are ruled by cigar-smoking fatcat businessmen who have politicians in their hip-pockets — and even order the physical destruction of opposition-presses and suppression of opposition-speech, all the while staging agitations and rumor-mongering, giving them complete control over a sheep-like public.
- UBS in Network dissolves its news division and rolls it into its entertainment division after Howard Beale's rants become a hit. Later, they cross over to being controlled by a company's interests when they silence Beale after he delivers an angry rant protesting UBS' merger with a Saudi Arabian conglomerate. They then have him killed due to his show's ratings plummeting as a result of his muzzling.
- Tomorrow Never Dies has a corrupt corporation controlling the media as the Big Bad. Elliot Carver, head of the Carver Media Group Network (CMGN), is trying to start a war between Britain and China in order to get exclusive broadcast rights in China.
- In Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Umbrella covers up the virus outbreak and uses its power to convince everybody that Raccoon City was destroyed went the reactor exploded. In addition to the media, the state governor approves of Umbrella's actions. No mention is made of the people who escaped the city. We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future is used in reverse, the video showing the truth is declared a forgery.
- The media in V for Vendetta is controlled by a totalitarian fascist government, and the "Voice of London" is an amped-up (British) version of a Fox News pundit, with plenty of social conservatism and nationalism.
- Natural Born Killers is a ruthless satire of the vapid presentation, with the media's coverage of the Bonnie and Clyde-esque Villain Protagonists only giving them more attention and incentive to commit their crimes.
- His Girl Friday (like its original and its remake, both called The Front Page) is a subversion, in that while it depicts the newspapers mainly as vapid, and pressmen as consistently willing to tell Blatant Lies, it nevertheless suggests that the Press is the main instrument for securing justice from an over-powerful government.
- Morning Glory is Played for Laughs, with much of the action focusing on (and mocking) a vapid TV morning talk show.
- Idiocracy depicts a future news media that has descended into an extremely vapid form, starting with the news anchors being a shirtless hunk and a bikini model.
- In The Chase, every single news outlet in Southern California is vapid. One of the drinking game rules is drink whenever some reporter tells you their channel is the first to bring you anything about the chase. And given this movie was made in 1994, it's become even more Hilarious in Hindsight.
- The classic example of media controlled by a tyrannical government - George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the government control was so intensive that they had an entire department devoted to altering historical records.
- The entire news media in World War Z is portrayed in such a form. Their quest for ratings is partly responsible for the disaster at Yonkers, which starts the Great Panic.
- Another example of traditional media outlets failing during the zombie apocalypse comes from the Newsflesh trilogy. Television, news and radio spent far too long denying the truth about the threat; meanwhile, the speed and ubiquity of bloggers made new media a far more effective means of spreading information.
- "The Daily Prophet" from the Harry Potter series is such a mouthpiece for the Ministry of Magic that it seems quite happy to simply change its views whenever a new Minister comes into power. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, they spew both bile and derogatory remarks towards Harry and Dumbledore, while in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, they back Voldemort's nazi-esque dominion. In between those two books, Harry is being hyped as the Chosen One, while conveniently "forgetting" that they'd been smearing him for a year beforehand.
- When Hermione asks Rita Skeeter if the Prophet is in the business of saying whatever the Ministry tells them to report, Skeeter scathingly replies that they're in the business of selling newspapers.
- America (The Book) contains a one-page Take That at the media for abdicating their responsibilities of fact-checking government processes in favor of ratings, pointing out how, when America was getting ready to invade Iraq, the media was covering the finale of Friends and the Kobe Bryant rape case. It also mocks political cartoons like Mallard Fillmore and Doonesbury for letting their politics get in the way of the humor.
- In Terry England's Rewind, the media goes nuts over the Rewound Children and proceeds to make their lives miserable.
- John Ringo tends to write extreme cases of this, typically complaining about the environmental impact of things when it makes no sense, like radiation from nuking a swarm of Alien Space Locusts.
- Honor Harrington has had some instances where she has to duck the press, due to their sensationalism. The one time she uses them, it's to terrify Pavel Young.
- In the Dexta series, all news outlets are run directly or indirectly by one of the Big Twelve megacorporations. This becomes a plot point when an editor quashes a news story that would damage one of the corporation's new business opportunities; while the Intrepid Reporter who's covering it theoretically could blow the whistle to a rival, he'd never be able to work again. Nobody trusts a traitor, and there's no such thing as independent media in this 'verse.
- The Dukes of Hazzard: The Hazzard County Gazette, which naturally tilts all its news coverage to paint its publisher – Boss Hogg, of course – in the most positive light possible. The same is true for WHOGG radio, which is also controlled by Boss.
- Walker, Texas Ranger: Several episodes feature the local news media as vicious, bloodthirsty, ratings-seeking outlets who care more for getting the story first rather than accuracy. The primo numero uno example is "In God's Hands," where a news reporter continually reports (wrongly) that Trivette had fired his gun during a shootout (with a street gang) and one of his bullets had struck and critically wounded a 6-year-old boy; the same reporter is seen harassing the family and hospital staff, and bungles key facts each night on the news as the investigation is ongoing. In the end, Trivette is cleared – a bullet from one of the bad guys' guns had struck the boy – but no on-air correction is ever shown.
- Babylon 5:
- President Clark turned the news media into his mouthpiece after taking over Earth's government.
- There is also an interesting inversion in which Sheridan convinces the League of Non-Aligned Worlds to accept White Stars policing their borders by pretending that the Voice of the Resistance is covering up some new, powerful invisible enemy, using their own distrust and paranoia against them.
- The Sentinel: Reporters simply broadcast rumors without doing any research. In the last episode the media reports on Jim's super-senses based solely on the previews from Blair's research doctorate.
- Cop Rock: The only concern of the media are the ratings.
- Mission: Impossible: In "The Play" a subversion is used. The premier of the People's Republic of Tyranny is willing to allow some freedom of speech and parody of the government. The cultural minister is the person who censors all speech and prints propaganda.
- Flash Gordon: Both of the TV stations shown are obssesed with ratings and Dale's attempts to promote the value of integrity are ignored. Dale's competitor is the Hot Scoop.
- In Parks and Recreation a reporter refused to do a negative story about the big company which owned her newspaper.
- The whole premise of Drop the Dead Donkey seems to revolve around Globelink being controlled by the big company. Sir Royston Merchant is seen only through his underling Gus Hedges and through some of his family members in later series, but exerts a powerful and, yes, sometimes egregious control on what Globelink can report or run. Most storylines actually end in defeat for the protagonists, sometimes merely giving in and shoving the hot story to the bottom of the pile, and sometimes being on the verge of a huge and annoying scoop but then damaging, wiping or recording over the tape accidentally, so that the evidence for their claims is vaporised.
- Law & Order has done this many times:
- The season 4 episode Sweeps. The journalist manipulated someone into shooting his guest so that he could get better ratings. Based on daytime talk-show hosts, especially the Jenny Jones incident (although Jenny Jones didn't actually do this, of course).
- Embedded. A muckraking journalist who prided himself on exposing corruption was apparently shot by a US soldier after he gave away troop positions in a broadcast. The case is hampered when the federal government arrests the reporter and charges him with treason, and when new evidence emerges indicating that the reporter might have set it all up. Based on a similar controversy surrounding Geraldo Rivera's broadcasts in Afghanistan.
- Public Service Homicide featured a pedophile being murdered. It turned out that the murderer (who had been raped by the pedophile many years before) confronted him for a TV show (on victims confronting their abusers), and the investigation then examines whether or not the producer manipulated the whole thing. Based on Dateline and the To Catch a Predator show.
- The season 19 episode Anchors Away). The victim was a journalist who had been demoted to vapid journalism duty thanks to newsroom politics, and the two news anchors were similar as well.
- Green Day's American Idiot mentions 'one nation controlled by the media' in a negative light.
- Joe Jackson's Sunday Papers, is an extended Take That! at the seedier end of the British Sunday newspaper market.
- Michael Jackson, angry with how the mass media reported on his eccentricities and scandals, wrote several songs on the topic ("Tabloid Junkie", "Privacy", and the posthumously-released "Breaking News"); the video for "Leave Me Alone" is similar, though the song itself is not about the tabloids.
- Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry" addresses the vapidity of television news.
- Hunter Helquist in Borderlands2 works for the Hyperion Truth Network, and always badmouths your characters, as well as the Crimson Raiders, a resistance group run by the original Vault Hunters from the first game. No matter what happens during the story missions, he always paints you in a bad light while glorifying Handsome Jack. Fortunately a sidequest is available later in the game that allows you to shut him up for good.
- USTV in inFAMOUS is pure, unadulterated propaganda claiming that the situation in Empire City is fine, and blatantly tries to cover up the very existence of Cole.
- In GTA IV, Weazel News and WKTT have a conservative bias, Public Liberty Radio is openly leftist, and Fizz! and OurOwnReality.com worship celebrities.
- In StarCraft II, UNN is blatantly pro-Dominion. Kate Lockwell, one of its anchors, isn't, but is constantly shut down by her boss.
- The Mass Effect games feature recurring Designated Punching Bag Khalisah Bint Sinan al-Jilani of Westerlund News, who makes a habit of flagging down Shepard for an interview and barraging him/her with loaded questions. Each time you encounter her, the option is eventually presented to lay her out with a right hook. The third time, however, she will duck your punch and try to lay one on Shep in return. Also in the third encounter, if you elect not to hit her, al-Jilani will break down in tears in fear and frustration over what is happeneing on Earth, and you can win her over to your side.
- Sonic The Comic Online has The Kane Broadcasting Company is a television broadcasting corporation run by Percival James Kane, it has come into prominence with its massive smear campaign against Sonic.
- The Weather News Network in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has Sam's attempt to report on the food storm is cut off by the head news anchor, due to her not being attractive enough to be on camera.
- The Gargoyles episode arc Hunter's Moon. WVRN reporter John Carter frames up the title characters for the bombing of the police HQ's clock tower, turning the public against them. Carter is really the Quarrymen leader John Canmore/John Castaway in disguise. He is one of the Canmore siblings who fired guided missiles at the Gargoyles, who were nested in the clock tower.
- The Simpsons:
- Most of the Springfield media depicted are corrupt and bereft of integrity. The portrayal of Fox News in Fox-produced shows them as biased and subordinate to evil tyrant Rupert Murdoch (who once voiced himself there, no less).
- An entire episode – "Fraudcast News," from Season 15 – centers on Mr. Burns' takeover of the local news media upon learning about published reports that had announced his death (he had been thought to have been killed in a landslide when Geezer Rock collapsed, only to have survived) and is outraged that he was being labeled as being a hateful man nobody liked and that the destruction of Geezer Rock did everyone a favor. Burns responds by using his vast wealth to purchase every media outlet in Springfield, then begins a public relations campaign to improve his image, notably as a benevolent philanthropist who is out to improve life in Springfield and ignoring altogether any suggestion of scandals or corruption.
- In Invader Zim, a Girl Scout gets her foot stuck in Zim's lawn. The media flocks to report on the horror that the poor little girl is going through.