The purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with useful, accurate information they can use to make better decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. Reporting should be balanced, objective, and fact-checked, and ethical and legal principles must be followed.
Immoral Journalists don't really care about these values. At best, they're too lazy to waste time checking if that juicy story is actually true — getting it out as soon as possible to sell more newspapers is what truly matters. Or maybe they exaggerated some details or made up the whole thing because they think it doesn't matter anyway. They may also be plagiarists.
The worst Immoral Journalists are actively malicious, or at least it feels that way. They have zero ethical consideration for their subjects, or the impact of their reporting and will gladly shove a microphone in your face two minutes after you watched your entire family being murdered. They won't hesitate to ruin someone's reputation, even if they know for sure that the allegations are all false. They'll happily churn out propaganda and spin for Corrupt Politicians. In extreme cases, they may cause some kind of disaster just because they think it'd make a good story. This may also fall under Trashy True Crime.
Note that (unlike those Going for the Big Scoop) this trope is not exclusive to journalists. Other people who work in news media, e.g. editors, can fall under it too.
May overlap with Intrepid Reporter and Glory Hound. May write Advertising Disguised as News stories. Often employed by Strawman News Media and various other sleazy figures and organizations. Compare Kent Brockman News. See also Endangering News Broadcast.
Paparazzi, nosy, aggressive photographers who intrude on celebrities' private lives, are a subtrope. Old Media Are Evil is a supertrope.
No Real Life Examples, Please!
- Okunagi from Domestic Girlfriend tries to ruin Natsuo's career and later tries to murder Hina.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: Nobliss Gordon isn't a journalist himself but he is a Corrupt Corporate Executive with stakes in the Earth Sphere media and near the end of the series, he uses his media connections to turn public opinion in favor of Rustal Elion, while smearing the reputation of Tekkadan.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury: The media covers for the brutal suppression of an Earthian workers protest by demonizing the Earthians as violent and claiming they attacked first.
- Two of these appear as vengeance targets in Hell Girl:
- One Villain of the Week in the first season is Takashi Inagaki, a journalist who wrote an exaggerated piece on a politician accused of accepting bribes, ruining the lives of the politician and his family. While he did publish a retraction, he did so in such a way that almost nobody actually reads it and he gets sent to Hell by the politician's son despite Hajime's attempts to convince the kid otherwise. Hajime even stopped working for Inagaki a few years before over his lack of ethics and refuses a new job from him when told to fudge an article. Given that Hajime sells celebrities' secrets back to them to make ends meet, that's saying a lot.
- An episode in season three involves a murderer who was inspired by a recently-published book. One of the three protagonists for the episode is a reporter who wrote a well-researched article on the case, only to have it replaced by a highly sensationalized article that her boss did no research on and published under her name. The reporter sends her boss to Hell for destroying her reputation and livelihood as a journalist.
- Kaitou Saint Tail: Manato genuinely believes that sensationalism is the main goal of press, and he sees no problem with getting dangerously close to making things up wholesale or ruining others' reputations. His first appearance involves him being Saint Tail's target because he'd been willing to publish a photo against the subject's protests, and he takes out his grudge against Saint Tail by slandering her in his articles and accusing her of stealing things just because they're expensive-looking.
- Moriarty the Patriot: Charles Augustus Milverton blackmails people into killing others or committing other crimes to ruin either their or other people's reputations. He then profits off reporting these deeds in his newspaper. He admits that seeing people break is the best thing to him.
- The appropriately named Schandel in the Big Finish Doctor Who story Pretty Lies is an unusually idealistic example. He's a sincere and enthusiastic Doctor fanboy, which is already something the War Doctor would be annoyed by, especially since he's specifically a fan of this self-loathing incarnation, seeing his becoming a warrior as noble and heroic. Then it turns out he sees nothing wrong with using Manipulative Editing to make the Doctor in his reports more like the one he believes in.
- Deconstruction in Oxymoron. The titular Ax-Crazy supervillain gives local reporter Crystal Gaines "exclusive coverage" of his growing rampage since he's an Attention Whore, which she reluctantly agrees to but joyfully banks on the boost of her career. While her reporting does end up causing more harm as Oxymoron's notoriety inspires a legion of copycats, it's pretty much An Offer You Can't Refuse, and she becomes one of his many victims later on anyway.
- Angus Fangus from Paperinik New Adventures is on a crusade to besmirch Paperinik, insisting all the time that PK is a criminal mastermind despite all evidence — and in fact, he's not above fabricating the "evidence" himself. Like J. Jonah Jameson above, though, there's more to him: he is a genuinely talented investigative reporter (enough to write a series of Pulitzer-winning articles) who had to leave his country after exposing a Corrupt Corporate Executive and making a powerful enemy. Arguably, his greatest talent is also his biggest personal flaw: the ability to see the worst in everyone. It makes him good at exposing crooks but makes him too cynical to believe someone like PK can be genuinely good, especially after his closest friend and his director set him up to be kidnapped by terrorists so the former could steal his Pulitzer-winning articles.
- Zig Zagging with J. Jonah Jameson Jr., the head editor of the Daily Bugle and one of Spidey's most recurring supporting characters. He constantly runs articles that defame Spidey, making him out to be the bad guy working with the supervillains, both because it drives up sales and furthers his personal vendetta against masked individuals. However, JJJ is also mentioned to be a crusading journalist when not covering Spider-Man and has won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigative work. He's also fiercely protective of his staff despite his treatment of them, has gone to jail several times for protecting his sources, is one of the only voices in the mainstream media to advocate for mutant rights, and has stared down more than one supervillain when they try to shake him down for information. As such, he doesn't really qualify for this trope except when it comes to Spider-Man.
- The page image is Nick Katzenberg, a photographer who exists as a contrast to Peter Parker. He took the pictures JJ wanted (i.e. ones that showed Spider-Man as a criminal), regardless of how deceptive they were, and was not above blackmailing people with his photos if he thought he could get away with it. Spidey once commented that whoever said the camera never lies had never met Nick.
- Wonder Woman (1987): Cassandra Arnold helps the White Magician maintain his status as a hero by helping him be a Villain with Good Publicity through her broadcasts in exchange for getting intel ahead of time about when he's going to be fighting so that she can be the first on the scene (sometimes getting there and setting up before the fight starts, and usually on her way there before the fight starts), getting exclusive interviews, misrepresenting things on the scene, and intentionally confusing, misleading and cutting away from bystanders to support her narrative.
- In Amazing Fantasy, Ouka Oosawagi is a struggling broadcast reporter who seizes on her ability to provide five minutes of "commentary" in her stand-ups to lambaste Peter for views and clicks. She spreads conspiracy theories and rumors about him, often with little basis, and jumps on any opportunity to get a story even under mysterious circumstances (like when the U.A. barrier is suddenly decayed away by an unknown force).
- A handful of Miraculous Ladybug fics depict Alya as this.
- LadyBugOut: Alya unknowingly slips into this mentality at the start of the series. When called out for deliberately misrepresenting what happened with Oblivio, she declares that being a superhero makes Ladybug a public figure, and that makes her fair game for Alya to depict her in whatever ways she sees fit.
- Louis & Luca and the Snow Machine:
- Editor-in-chief Frimand Pløsen's newspaper is failing because he keeps making incorrect predictions that it'll start snowing soon. His solution? Pressuring the inventor Theodore Rimspoke to make a snow machine. It gets worse as Pløsen undergoes Sanity Slippage: near the end of the film, he's even willing to let Pinchcliffe disappear in the snow just because it'd make an amazing story. Even after returning to his senses, he doesn't take any responsibility for his actions.
- Pløsen's journalist Melvind Snerken is a slacker who doesn't seem to be terribly concerned about the accuracy of his articles. At one point he tries to write a recap of a sports match that hasn't even taken place yet.
- Superman: Doomsday had the rather sleazy National Enquirer editor who pinches Jimmy Olsen off the Daily Planet after Superman (reportedly) died, so when Jimmy takes the job (which involves covering things like raves at nightclubs) he kind of devolves into this though it's toned-down. Lois Lane eventually talks him back out of it especially after Supes appears to have come back, although the circumstances of that are quite suspicious at that point.
- In 15 Minutes, the murder of a famous detective is filmed by the perpetrator as part of an elaborate scheme to get off on an Insanity Defense and become rich and famous from the sale of the tape. Afterward, the murderer calls Robert Hawkins, the host of a tabloid TV show named Top Story, and offers to sell him the tape. Hawkins buys it for one million dollars to run on his show, much to the shock of the entire city.
Hawkins: If It Bleeds, It Leads!
- In Ace in the Hole (1951), the cynical and unscrupulous reporter Chuck Tatum ends up taking a job with a small New Mexico newspaper. The job is pretty boring until he finds a man trapped in an old Indian dwelling. When Tatum learns that the rescuers can get the man out in about 12 hours by shoring up the inside of the mine, he convinces the rescue crew to drill in from above instead, a job that will take 6 days and will give Tatum enough time to whip the story into a real career-changing event. The story ends well for neither Tatum nor the caved-in man.
- The Batman: A journalist found out that Martha Wayne's parents died in a murder-suicide and then had mental health problems for years and was going to publish all of that on the eve of the mayoral election. No political significance, nothing immoral, just yellow journalism crap.
- Die Hard:
- In Die Hard, sleazy reporter Dick Thornberg threatens to have the family nanny deported if she doesn't let him interview Holly and John McClane's children. The resultant interview outs Holly as John's wife to the terrorists, leading to potentially fatal consequences. When it is all over, Holly decks the guy.
- In Die Hard 2, Dick Thornberg goes Large Ham on a live broadcast that terrorists have seized control of Dulles Airport. In reality, the terrorists have simply hacked into the runway wiring, leaving them unlit. This news triggers a panic stampede in the terminal itself.
- Florence Foster Jenkins offers an interesting version of this trope that's paired with Protagonist-Centered Morality. Throughout the film, Florence's husband St. Clair Bayfield is shown paying off critics of all kinds to write flattering reviews of her absolutely horrendous singing. When Earl Wilson, of the New York Post, decides to write a truthful piece instead, he's depicted as something of a bad guy, even though he's literally just doing his job (he doesn't have any personal vendetta against Florence or St. Clair, either) and even turns down a massive bribe to run the story. So he's only immoral in the sense that Florence is the hero; in another movie, Earl would be praised for his crusade.
- Played for Laughs in His Girl Friday, which features an ethically-challenged editor and a flock of equally morally dubious sensationally covering an upcoming execution. One of the film's few dramatic moments is the apparent suicide of a woman that the reporters keep labeling as the lover of the criminal (she helped him, yes, but she didn't know him from Adam and did it out of pity) even when she literally begs them to stop.
- In John Doe: Vigilante, John Doe films the process of his killings and sends it to the media. However, the mainstream media edits the films, showing only the execution, not the reason. John Doe then gives the films to a smaller outfit, which publishes them uncut, on the internet. Their head journalist, Sam Foley, rides the wave of popularity surrounding John Doe to his own advantage, parlaying it into fame and success. It is strongly implied that John Doe is providing Sam with advance warning of his killings and that Sam is withholding this information from the authorities.
- Wayne Gale in Natural Born Killers pursues Outlaw Couple Mickey and Mallory Knox, filming their crimes in lurid detail and turning them into cult icons purely to keep himself in business. The two get sick of him at the end and kill him following their escape from prison.
- Nightcrawler is about a petty criminal who learns he can film gruesome violence, disaster, and death and sell it to the local news. Things take an even darker turn when he realizes he doesn't need to wait for the disasters to happen naturally.
- The Night Flier: Richard Dees is a sleazy and cynical tabloid reporter with few lows he would not stoop to for a story, with trespassing crime scenes and desecrating gravesites being some of his lesser crimes. After promising his new colleague a by-line for her assistance in tracking down the Night Flier, he screws her over by locking her in a closet.
- Richard Jewell became controversial due to its decision to portray real-life journalist Kathy Scruggs as an immoral journalist who slept with an FBI agent in exchange for getting information on the Centennial Olympic Park Bombing, despite there being no evidence of any such tryst happening in real life.
- Gale Weathers in the Scream films, especially the first two, is a downplayed example. She's portrayed as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who helps save the day, and her theory that the wrong man was arrested and convicted for the murder of Maureen Prescott turns out to have been correct, but she's still extremely mercenary and motivated to cover the killing sprees by the promise of fame and fortune from writing the True Crime books about them. Sidney punches her in the face twice because of it. She mellows out in the later films, though, and becomes a more conventionally heroic Intrepid Reporter. In the fourth film, she's horrified when she sees that Sidney's publicist Rebecca idolizes her, and at the end of the fifth, she emphatically refuses to write the book about the murders and give the killers Fame Through Infamy, instead writing it about her slain former lover Dewey and seeking instead to let the killers die in obscurity… an oath that the following film reveals she eventually broke, and the book she wrote unwittingly gave the Conspiracy Theorist circle ammunition to turn Samantha Carpenternote into a Hero with Bad Publicity, and almost created a wave of more Ghostface copycatsnote .
- In Sherlock: Case of Evil, Henry Coot is a reporter for a scandal sheet who follows Sherlock Holmes around: always ready to trumpet his triumphs for a sensational headline, but equally ready to tear him down if he makes a mistake. He is also always ready to attack the police, much to Lestrade's disgust.
- Eddie Brock is depicted as this in Spider-Man 3. Eager to get a leg up at the Bugle, he takes pictures of Spider-Man and then heavily doctors them to make them look as though he's engaged in criminal activity. When he's caught out, his entire career is ruined and he's sent down the path to becoming Venom.
- In Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, one of the plot's minor antagonists is David Warfield, a Rupert Murdoch-esque tycoon who buys a majority share of the Daily Planet and immediately turns it into a tabloid newspaper. The two trashy articles that influence the plot the most are the declaration that Superman told a kid who wrote him a request to help create world peace to drop dead when Supes answers that he's reluctant to meddle so much with mankind's affairs, and the declaration that Superman is dead when he is injured during his first fight against Nuclear Man and doesn't show up for a few days (the other newspapers that appear in the same montage don't go that far in terms of speculation, just saying that they are worried he hasn't been seen).
- Tomorrow Never Dies: Big Bad Elliot Carver wants to start a global war just to boost his TV company's ratings (and because the Chinese refused to grant him exclusive broadcast rights). Moreover, he frequently uses his influence to strong-arm his enemies and has developed a notorious reputation for stirring and reporting mayhem. In fact, Carver has done it many times just for profit and doesn't merely report the news — he loves creating it. His media company is the first to report on scandals and disasters because it causes them to happen.
- He laughs off rumors that he ran mad cow stories because a British beef magnate wouldn't honor his poker bet. And that he took money from the French to keep the stories running for another year.
- In the Tie-In Novel, it's revealed that while working as a meteorologist, he was a Dirty Old Man who harassed his female colleagues if they rejected his unwanted advances. One of them even fled Hong Kong just to avoid him.
- His company deliberately creates faulty software that require constant updates. His TV anchors even report on "floods in Pakistan, riots in Paris, and a plane crash in California" that they engineered just for TV ratings.
- He still releases trashy photos of the US President with a cheerleader even when the president complied with his demands to sign a bill lowering cable rates.
- Alex Rider has Harold Bulman, who decides on his own to expose Alex's secret to the world, regardless of the consequences. MI6 have him declared legally dead and arrested for his own murder before he can publish it.
- Flawed: Pia is introduced as the reporter who interviews every Flawed person after their trial and branding, and Celestine dislikes her, thinking she's using her situation just to cook up drama and get readers while feigning any sort of sympathy for her. Ultimately subverted; Pia uses the alias Lisa Life to report more honest and sympathetic articles about Celestine, proving herself to be a good person and journalist trapped in a bad job.
- Harry Potter: Rita Skeeter is willing to do anything for a good story such as spying on people, sensationalising what people tell her, taking advantage of and stealing from an old lady who, at best is not all there and at worst actually dead, and outright inventing gossip when nothing good comes out. In particular, she's willing to print completely false stories about people she dislikes. She's also literally breaking the law to get her biggest stories: she's an Animagus who can turn herself into a beetle to get dirt. Animagi are required to register with the Ministry of Magic to prevent abuses of power such as Rita's scheming.
- The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum has Werner Tötges, who harasses the title character throughout, frequently makes up quotes, and distorts facts to make her life fit a salacious narrative of a promiscuous woman who aids and abets anarchists and terrorists, and doesn't care if she's innocent or not.
- In The Millennium Trilogy, Rabid Cop Faste offers an unscrupulous journalist inside information into the investigation of Dag and Mia's murder in exchange for the journalist making insinuations about rival Detective Modig.
- Red Dragon has Freddie Lounds. Embittered that his legitimate journalism career was going nowhere, he went into the sleazy murder-sensationalizing tabloid business. With absolutely no evidence, Lounds decides to write a piece about how the Serial Killer called "The Tooth Fairy" is an impotent repressed homosexual which gets him killed in a particularly brutal fashion.
- In A Series of Unfortunate Events, there is Geraldine Julienne of the Daily Punctilio, who is ready to publish anything in the paper, provided it makes a good story. For example, after the events of The Vile Village, the Punctilio publishes an article accusing the Baudelaires of Count Olaf's murder and forcing them to stay on the run for the rest of the books.
- In The Truth, William de Worde's ethical, fact-finding method is challenged by the Ankh-Morpork Enquirer, a collection of untrue stories that are only meant to drum up business for the Engravers' Guild and put William out of business. William figures out who's writing the stories by comparing them to a particular sketchy but oddly appealing food product and confronts CMOT Dibbler about his foray into Immoral Journalism.
- In the Newsflesh series, muckraker Robert Stalnaker deliberately twists a story about Alexander Kellis' work on a cure for the common cold. This inspires Brandon Majors, legend in his own mind, to convince his buddies to help release Dr. Kellis' engineered virus before proper testing is done. When that virus meets up with another one that is meant to cure cancer, a Zombie Apocalypse ensues. Not many of the "journalists" on this page get credit for nearly ending humanity, but this guy does.
- In her first appearance in Battlestar Galactica (2003), D'Anna Biers is accused of stoking tensions in the fleet behind the veneer of investigative journalism. The issue is rendered moot when it is revealed that she was never a real journalist but a Cylon agent.
- Black Mirror features one in "The National Anthem", its very first episode—fitting, as the entire plot is a criticism of the 24-hour news cycle and sensationalist journalism. Although the entire industry is called out, the main culprit is Malaika, a journalist at the fictional United Kingdom News. She has a contact at 10 Downing Street and uses topless shots to bait him into leaking her government information so she can get a scoop. Later, she uses that information to try to infiltrate the (supposed) hiding place of the kidnapped Princess Susannah. In most stories, she would be a classic Intrepid Reporter, but this instance makes it clear that she's only making matters worse for everyone involved and cares more about getting an exclusive story than anyone's safety—and she ends up getting shot by government soldiers when they discover an unidentified civilian sneaking around a top-secret facility.
- Charmed (1998): Prue once had to contend with a reporter who saw her using telekinesis and was desperate to out her and her sisters as witches. At one point, he sabotaged her car to make her desperate enough to confess on camera.
- CSI: NY had two.
- Robert Murdocknote appears in a few season 5 episodes. He runs a sleazy newspaper and revels in printing stories that make the NYPD look bad, particularly when the "blue flu" hits. Although, he subverts it himself later when he prints a tribute to a fallen officer.
- In season 8's "Clean Sweep", while at a crime scene, Mac is approached by a reporter named Jennifer Walsh who openly flirts with him, trying to get him to corroborate/comment on things she's speculating about... even going so far as to ask if he would compromise his own values in order to close a case. When he shuts her down, she worms her way into the lab to accost him in his office with the same questions. He promptly dismisses her, again.
- Daredevil (2015): In season 1, Mitchell Ellison cares more about keeping the circulation numbers of the New York Bulletin up as opposed to covering hard-hitting news, to the point that he's constantly roadblocking Ben Urich's efforts to break stories about Wilson Fisk's criminal activities. He mellows out after Fisk kills Ben, and it turns out that Fisk had an insider at the Bulletin on his payroll.
- In the British satirical show The Day Today, there's Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan, an aggressively incompetent journalist who either makes up or bungles stories so frequently (during 9/11, live from New York, he reported on WTC "negotiations") that he often elicits an angry rant from the newsreader.
- Dexter: Christine Hill from season 4 is initially just a bit unscrupulous, sexing it up with Detective Quinn and then using their pillow talk in her reporting, which is really his own fault for being stupid enough to share confidential information with her. Then it's revealed that she was the one who shot Agent Lundy and is the daughter of the Trinity Killer, whom she tried to cover for.
- Drop the Dead Donkey: Damien is the sort of reporter who would happily do unethical practices if it would make for a better news story, be it abusing the Empathy Doll Shot, making a woman recount her traumatizing experience over and over again, or lacing the foodstuff of cows with fairy liquid in order to highlight the incidence of mad cow disease amongst them, all to the point that he's even started a war to get a news story. This is Deconstructed as the show goes on - George tries to fire him for his practices and he struggles to get another job in Series 6 thanks to his actions.
- Hannibal: Fredericka Lounds is a more modern take on the character in Red Dragon. This version is convinced Will Graham is a psychopath, so she basically harasses and stalks him for anything incriminating she can write about.
- Homicide: Life on the Street: The detectives tend to view all reporters as this. They are right in some cases, as multiple reporters shown over the course of the series are amoral scumbags, but just as many are genuine Intrepid Reporters.
- House of Anubis: Joy briefly became one in season 2, once she became editor of the school news blog, "The Jackal". In an effort to bully Nina out of the school, she posted an anonymous article bashing her for things like skipping class or not visiting her hospitalized grandmother, written to make Nina sound like a bad person. Her other friends called her out on being a poor journalist, especially in comparison to the much more informative and considerate Mara, whose blogging alias was what Joy used in writing the Nina article, allowing her to temporarily take credit for the stuff Mara actually wrote.
- In JAG, journalists have been consistently causing issues during the show. When they're not inflating body counts, they accuse the military of whitewashing (e.g., "The Good of the Service"), ask slanted questions, compromise national security, and intrude on a family's grief (e.g., "Coming Home").
- Law & Order:
- "Juvenile" starts with the attempted murder of an investigative journalist who claims gangbangers targeted him for his series on how they use old ladies to smuggle drugs. It turns out that the entire story is a fabrication, one that actual gangbangers find quite amusing. He did accidentally get close enough to the truth to make someone nervous in connection with another story, though.
- "Public Service Homicide" has a cable news producer who engineers a confrontation between a victim of child sex abuse and the man who abused her as part of a To Catch a Predator-style documentary, knowing full well that the abuse victim will likely behave violently towards her abuser. The abuser ends up dead and McCoy has the producer tried for depraved indifference manslaughter.
- Leverage: Monica Hunter, the Villainof The Week in the episode "The Three Days of the Hunter Job", is a self-aggrandizing sleaze-monger willing to destroy lives for ratings, first appearing in this episode by lying about a school bus driver who had an accident being mentally ill and a risk to children (which almost led to the man committing suicide). The Leverage team get payback by making her believe she ran into an apocalyptic Government Conspiracy and then making her bosses believe she snapped, getting her fired.
- The Midsomer Murders episode "A Tale of Two Hamlets" has Murdoch, a reporter from the Causton Echo who embellishes or outright fabricates stories about the actor whose murder he is covering. Eventually he is told off by DCI Barnaby.
- Monk: In "Mr. Monk and the Man Who Shot Santa Claus", Brandy Barber purposely skews Monk's explanatory interview to make him look bad, and seems disappointed when she has to change her coverage to something complimentary after he solves the mystery.
- Murder, She Wrote: The episode "For Whom the Bell Tolls" features a TV reporter who is initially shown as sympathetic towards protecting a historic building that used to be a speakeasy, because it gets good ratings. He secretly wants them to fail, because he plans a feature on whether the demolition will reveal Dutch Schultz's victims. As soon as the protestors start showing some success, he reverses course, presenting them as standing in the way of pogress.
- Murdoch Mysteries: Louise Cherry is a woman journalist, determined to succeed in the business. She's willing to manipulate her reports so that her articles sell better or bribe people to get the best information. In "Murdoch Without Borders", she outs herself as a xenophobe who sees all immigrants as invaders and criminals. Her article unfairly pins a Greek man for murder and it's meant to create violent protests and incite deportation. Later episodes downplay this slightly, showing her as sensationalist and self-centred but not usually vindictive.
- Narcos: Valeria Velez is a reporter and anchorwoman who seduces notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar to gain more insight into his operation, but just becomes a mouthpiece for the cartel in the process and ends up getting her killed. Valeria was loosely based on a Real Life reporter, Virginia Vallejo.
- In one episode of NCIS, the killer is a journalist whose career peaked when covering the murder spree of a serial killer some years before, and decided to try reviving his career by committing copycat murders so that he could cover that story again.
- Omertà: La loi du silence has Bertrand Fournel, an independent journalist who publishes articles about anything he's told about, without much thought, and occasionally pesters both the law enforcement and the mafia for juicy rumors. Naturally, he's despised by those who interacted with him, and thus must only be relied on as an extreme last resort.
- Our Miss Brooks: Stephanie Forest in the episodes "The Model Schoolteacher" (the radio original) and "The Model Teacher" (the television remake). Forester is at Madison High School to do a profile on the day in the life of a schoolteacher but really views her role as requiring a hatchet job on Miss Brooks - taking as many insulting and unrepresentative photographs as possible. Miss Brooks covertly removes the unflattering photos, and, in the television version, disposes of Miss Forest by noon; Miss Forest receives a telegram stating her editor wants her in Florida, immediately.
Stephanie Forest: Now, as I was saying my dear. I don't want you to do a thing for this picture. Realism is what our readers want. The eyelids practically stuck together, the little straggly clumps of hair flopping over the ears, and those little tired lines around the mouth that look as if you just tasted a raw lamb chop. We want you just the way you are!
- Pagan Peak: Charles Turek is an ambitious journalist with a reputation. For this reason, he is chosen by the Krampus Killer to publicise his story. Turek happily goes along with receiving the information the killer sends to him about his murders, allowing him to control the narrative rather than turning over the information to the police, simply so more people will read his articles. Even leaking tapes of the killer torturing people online, and publicising the information that Detective Ellie Stocker is having an affair with her superior. After believing the killer is dead, he even publishes a book glamorising his own role in the events.
- Parks and Recreation: Joan Calamezzo is an important presence in Pawnee's media, and a reporter that has a taste for controversies more than she is interested in the truth. She extrapolates every little thing that goes wrong and even outright lies about things and events in the city (such as telling that all staff in Leslie's Harvest Festival are criminals when she was specifically told they aren't) and freely shames many of her show's guests (mainly Leslie) whenever it will bring her ratings.
- In Proven Innocent, journalist Dylan dates defense attorney Madeline Scott in hopes of finding evidence that she murdered her best friend years earlier. After she finds out his true motives, she dumps his ass.
- Quincy, M.E.: In "A Star is Dead", when Reardon arrives, Quincy makes it clear he dislikes him even more than most nosy reporters, claiming that he publishes stories other papers have too much honesty to print. Ultimately, it comes to light that he drove Roberta to kill herself, painting her in the most negative light possible to pressure her into giving him the dirt on her and Congressman Sinclair's relationship.
- In A Series of Unfortunate Events, Geraldine Julienne's character is combined with that of Mrs. Poe, making her even worse. She's a very callous woman whose main priority is writing delicious headlines. Mrs. Poe is shown boasting about her article about the fire that killed the Baudelaire parents right in front of the Baudelaire children. In the final episode, it's shown that her paper will be shut down due to false reporting and she's in jail, most likely as a result of her unethical practices.
- Kitty Reilly in "The Reichenbach Fall". She's convinced Sherlock is a fraud and is looking for any dirt she can get on him to make her career. While it doesn't really redeem her, we eventually learn she was being manipulated by Moriarty.
- Newspaperman Charles Augustus Magnussen from "His Last Vow", who snoops into the dark secrets of major political figures and then uses those secrets to blackmail them. Sherlock considers him so disgusting that he opts to simply shoot him in the head rather than find a way to outsmart him.
- Roger Nixon in Smallville tries to blackmail Lex Luthor into paying him a large sum by threatening to publish an article detailing Lex's wild teenage years in Metropolis, only to find himself in over his head when Lex instead threatens to Un-person him to trap him into his service, chiefly by investigating the car crash in which Lex first met Clark Kent. Nixon comes to share Lex's obsession with finding out Clark's secret, even ignoring Lex's constant warnings for him to stay away from Clark and his parents. In the penultimate episode of Season 1, he spies on Clark and finds out about his Nigh-Invulnerability. In the Season 1 finale, he videotapes Clark surviving an explosion that he himself arranged, bugs the Kents' property so he can eavesdrop on them, steals the key to Clark's ship from Lex, trespasses on the Kents' property to activate the ship with the key and, when discovered by Jonathan and Martha, shamelessly declares his intent to expose Clark to the world. In the Season 2 premiere, Nixon ends up trapped underground along with Jonathan, with whom he argues about Clark's well-being. He initially shows signs of potentially pulling a Heel–Face Turn, only to leave Jonathan trapped and try to make off with a Kryptonite-weakened Clark after the latter comes to rescue them. When Jonathan gets freed and fights him, Nixon gets the upper hand and prepares to kill Jonathan, declaring his willingness to do anything to get his story. Luckily, Lex shows up in time to shoot Nixon dead.
- The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Misfortune Cookie", the Caustic Critic Harry Folger enjoys having restaurants shut down with his scathing reviews. He is shown to be an extremely unethical journalist when he begins writing a negative review of Mr. Lee's Chinese Cuisine before he visits it. He gives it the title "If you love your Pekingese, don't ask for a doggie bag." When he does later visit it, he orders a great deal of food but demands to be brought his check without touching any of it. His bad review of the restaurant is published in the next day's paper, causing Mr. Lee to lose many of his customers.
- Mitsuhiko Hirukawa from Ultraman Mebius is a tabloid news reporter who will stop at nothing to get the scoop of the day, even exposing Mirai's true identity as Ultraman Mebius despite the Ultra having saved the entire city multiple times. This lousy excuse of a person is willing to do anything to get a good story for the tabloids, regardless of what kind of horrible things it requires (or even if the story is even remotely true).
- V (1983): Kristine Walsh is one of many journalists reporting on the initial First Contact with the alien Visitors, but soon becomes a spokesperson for their cause because of the boost it will give to her career. As the Visitors become increasingly tyrannical by rounding up scientists, this gets her chewed out by an older journalist she used to look up to by calling her "Goebbels". Kristine has a Heel Realization and later tries to expose the Visitors on live air, but it's too little, too late: Diana immediately blasts her.
- The Wire season 5 adds the goings-on at the Baltimore Sun to the show's expanding plot, and how its staff reacts to the shrinking newspaper market. One of the new employees, Scott Templeton, is already admonished by his boss Gus Haynes for fabricating quotes, then proceeds to invent an interview with an (unbeknownst to him) equally fake Serial Killer who's supposedly preying on the homeless of Baltimore. By the end of the season, Scott is promoted and receives a Pulitzer Prize for his "investigative reporting", and Gus is demoted.
- Bo Burnham's "Channel 5 News" is about an awful, dishonest news channel with reporters who delight in seeing people hurt and upset, and who are willing to fabricate drama to get views, regardless of who it affects. The Only Sane Man is weatherman Max, who spends his whole verse being openly remorseful and disgusted by the actions of his channel, and who gets his segment cut short due to going off-script.
- Chamillionaire's song "Hip Hop Police" and "Evening News" features the rapper himself (in whiteface) portraying Bob O'Wildy, a smug news anchor who alternates between insulting him and misleading his viewers before switching to commercials.
- Chumbawamba has the song "British Colonialism & The BBC", which has the boss of the BBC bragging about killing revolutions.
- Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry", which is about the callousness of TV news reporting as well as the tabloidization of all news. It's told from the point of view of a news anchorman who "could've been an actor, but I wound up here", and is thus not a real journalist. The song's theme is that TV news coverage focuses too much on negative and sensationalist news; in particular, deaths, disasters, and scandals, with little regard for the consequences or for what is important.
- Exaggerated in Moja stick's "Illusory Retrospective". It's about some lunatic who destroys everything, kills everyone, and then writes about it in her newspaper even though no one is around to read it.
- Řystein Sunde's "Smi mens liket er varmt" is about a journalist who's a pretty terrible person: He doesn't care about the truth as long as the paper sells, and never bothers to check his facts because it "takes too long". He encourages people to bully losing athletes when they're already feeling terrible about losing. He chooses to take pictures of an injured boy instead of calling the ambulance right away. After the boy dies, the journalist takes pictures of his mother while she's crying over him, and then ruins her life with follow-up stories.
- Queen's "Scandal" is a scathing indictment about the dishonesty and intrusiveness of the British tabloids as they were giving both Freddie Mercury (over his health problems, resulting in a picture of him looking haggard and emaciated on the front page of The Sun) and Brian May (over his divorce and subsequent marriage to actress Anita Dobson) a hard time in the late 80s.
- Ashley America is this in Valkyrie Women's Wrestling. She joined the locker room for the purpose of exposing and putting an end to women's wrestling, or at the very least the first women's wrestling promotion in New York since The Fabulous Moolah managed to get the ban against it lifted. Ashley America doesn't want to go that far back but she does want to return to cards where there is only one women's match, preferably one featuring her. She's also against the hiring of Amerindians like Nyla Rose and Hania, stressing to her viewers that the United States of America was founded on the defeat and oppression of Indians.
- BioShock 2 has Stanley Poole, who after being put as The Mole inside a dissident's Cult of Personality, gets control of a region and runs it into the ground, going through extreme measures to cover it up.
- In Double Homework, none are mentioned by name, but the press in general give the protagonist a lot of grief about his role in the Barbarossa incident, usually calling him a “mass murderer.” Downplayed, as he and Tamara, as it is revealed, got a warning about what would happen if they were to open the door of the cable car.
- Downplayed by the reporter Miranda in Full Throttle: she is not actively malicious, but when she sees a potential tragedy, her first instinct is to write a story about it and send it in to her editor, and only then does she consider helping the victims. For example, while she does administer first aid to Ben after he crashes his bike early in the game, she does so only after shooting a bunch of photos of his unconscious body. Later on, when she overhears that Malcolm Corley is "headed for an ambush", she stakes out in the bushes with a camera to document said ambush instead of warning him, leading to his death (though she manages to capture the murder on film, which then becomes the main MacGuffin of the plot).
- Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories has Ned Burner, who disguises himself as a priest to get Toni to commit crimes such as killing a federal witness, stealing diamonds, creating chaos on the city roads in a firetruck and killing film stars who refused to give an interview to him, all so he can report on those crimes and make the headlines.
- Jimmy Chen, aka "The Stowaway", Elusive Target in Hitman 2, started publishing slanderous articles on celebrities after his acting career tanked, and is the object of a contract from someone angry with him sitting on information about the danger of an anti-depressant until the first suicides.
- Idol Manager: Aya Naya is seen walking that path during one of her events. She takes to writing a — well-researched, to her credit — story based on a conclusion she has already made before finding the facts that support it. On-screen, she admits to having started writing a story about a music genre making a comeback, but lacking any proof that it's actually happening. As this happens in the story mode of an Idol Singer management game, guess who ends up being asked to produce a single in that music genre that sells well enough to top the charts so that Aya can use an interview of their idol group as the rationale to publish the story.
- Mass Effect and its sequels have Khalisah bint Sinan al-Jilani, who tries to interview Shepard once per game and each time makes outrageous accusations and takes every opportunity to try and make Shepard look bad. A Paragon Shepard will beat her at her own game and come out looking even more heroic. A Renegade Shepard will probably just punch her lights out.
- In the Nancy Drew video game Alibi In Ashes, TV reporter Brenda Carlton is first shown accusing Nancy of committing arson by burning down the Old Town Hall. We soon see that she tends to not only twist things that people say or trip them into making incriminating statements but also that she has illegal, invasive, and unethical means for getting information. Worse, we find out that she was the one who burned down the Town Hall after luring Nancy to it, hoping to use the fire to frame Nancy for it, to kill her, or both!
- The journalist in Papers, Please, who walks up carrying nothing but an invalid international press pass to get through a strictly controlled border, offers a lose-lose scenario through sheer jerkishness. Deny them entry? They write an article complaining about how they couldn't get through and how this shows clear prejudice to journalists, and so the border patrol institutes Reason for Denial forms to add another set of paperwork to the pile. Let them through? Not only do you get a citation for messing up, but the reporter instead writes an article mocking the border for being too weak, and the border patrol institutes the same forms.
- Soji Mizumi from Peret em Heru: For the Prisoners starts off as a Glory Hound who cares about nothing except being the first to break the story on Khufu's tomb, even as it becomes apparent that it can and will kill people. Then he reveals that he's a Serial Rapist on top of that — which can result in his Karmic Death. Even if he does make it out with his life, he learns absolutely nothing from the ordeal and is last seen begging to go back even though two people at the very least died in there.
- Road 96: Sonya doesn't care that her reporting is purposefully slanted to support Tyrak because that's what made her rich in the first place. The one scenario where she actually does some investigative journalism of her own, she shows no worry for Adam when her plan puts him in a life-or-death situation, being far more focused on getting her shot.
- Touhou Project: Downplayed with Aya Shameimaru. She frequently twists the truth in her writing to her own advantage and has written lies several times. However, she can be thoughtful about the effect her stories will have, and is more interested in pursuing the truth than ruining other peoples' reputations for the sake of it.
- As part of the backstory of Yandere Simulator, a good journalist was framed as being one of these. The yandere main character's mother, Ryoba, was also a yandere in high school, and a local journalist began investigating her school after the suspicious deaths of several students. The journalist quickly settled on Ryoba as the main suspect, but Ryoba turned the tables by accusing him of being a pervert who was obsessively stalking her. When his evidence proved insufficient to convict her and she got away with her crimes, Ryoba's stories about the journalist became widely believed. Afterwards, he was fired and became an infamous disgrace.
- Ian Peek from Batman Beyond steals an intangibility belt, kills its creator (albeit accidentally), and uses it to walk through walls and get dirt on Gotham City's celebrities for his tabloid newscast "The Inside Peek".
- Darkwing Duck: Bianca Beakley starts out as a bad-tempered anchor who yells at her crew and steals their ideas. She escalates to supervillainy to boost ratings and decides to stick with it because Evil Pays Better.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy: In "Truth or Ed", Eddy takes over the duty of selling the school newspaper under the alias "Bobby Blabby", using it to publish false articles about the other kids to make a quick buck claiming Rolf wants to tear down Kevin's house for his nana and Nazz having hairy legs. Soon, everyone (except Jonny) marches to the newsroom and Eddy ends up exposing himself, resulting in him getting beaten up and punished by being the sole member of the school's knitting club.
- Kaeloo: Zigzagged with Poucave. She values the truth more than anything and refuses to allow her journalism to be used to spread lies, but the "immoral" part largely stems from her complete disregard for other people's boundaries, as her tactics involve hiding just out-of-sight and spying on people to get information about their private lives. The other characters call her out on it but she continues to do so with zero regard for their wishes.
- Nancy Gribble is shown to be like this when she gets particularly power-hungry in King of the Hill. As she once told Mihn Souphanousinphone, "Just because I'm blonde doesn't mean I'm harmless, sug. Do you ever wonder what happened to the weathercaster before me?"
- When Nancy decides to try and spice up a fluff piece about a kid who brought his ferret to school, she focuses on how said school doesn't have any security guards and postulates on what might've happened if an intruder armed with a loaded gun got into the school instead. She even calls the report "Dark Day in Durndle." Hank's the only person who doesn't get worked up over the report, repeatedly exclaiming nothing actually happened and Nancy just spouted a bunch of hypotheticals to scare people. Unfortunately, Nancy's bullshit gets her a better reporting job wherein she spends her time sabotaging her coworkers to the degree that even Peggy and Minh are freaked out by her behavior. After Nancy gets drunk and humiliates herself during a parade, she's bumped back to her local station. It turns out the only reason Nancy isn't like this all the time is that she usually spends most of her energy dealing with her husband Dale's Manchild behavior.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Ponyville Confidential" has Diamond Tiara fulfill a J. Jonah Jameson-esque role as she forces the Cutie Mark Crusaders to write unflattering or outright untrue stories about Ponyville's citizens under the pseudonym of Gabby Gums, such as the Cakes divorcing, excerpts from Rarity's diary, or trying to portray Twilight as a snob, Applejack as lazy, and Rainbow Dash as a softy. When they begin to have doubts, Diamond Tiara keeps them in line by threatening to reveal embarrassing photos of them. When Rarity learns the truth and shares it with her friends, the entire town turns on the Crusaders, which not only makes them pariahs but ruins their chances of getting gossip. Diamond Tiara does this all to get "juicy" stories and more attention for herself. Thankfully, in the end, the CMC reveal themselves as Gabby Gums to apologize to the town and tell the whole story. In a bit of Laser-Guided Karma, Diamond Tiara gets demoted to printer while Camera Fiend colt Featherweight becomes the new editor.
- The Simpsons:
- Kent Brockman's personal brand of reporting has absolutely no problem being sleazy as all hell if he thinks it will bring him ratings, such as saying that Marge Simpson has killed people and must be stopped before she kills again when she escapes a mental institution in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge", his assumption that a space shuttle has been invaded by alien ants and his declaration that he's willing to serve them in "Deep Space Homer", or him calling the local Army base "the kill-bot factory" in "Homer Loves Flanders". In "Girly Edition", he even tells Bart that he only cares about making "personal interest" stories because it brings in ratings.
- In "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes", Homer eventually starts to write fake news for his "Mr. X" webpage to try to keep his 15 Minutes of Fame (he blew his cover as a whistleblower in order to get the money one of his "real" news got, because it would have gone to charity otherwise). While the episode quickly becomes a homage to The Prisoner (1967), we do manage to see that said fake news harmed someone when we get a glimpse of the Flanders children convalescing in bed because Ned didn't give them shots. Todd is apparently undergoing a Near-Death Experience, as his one line is a plaintive "mom?"
- "Homer Badman" features Rock Bottom, a cable news program that blatantly manipulates footage to sell stories. Homer agrees to an interview to [[explain why he grabbed a gummi Venus de Milo off a babysitter's behind and presents his case clearly and succinctly. What airs is a painful mess, with blatant edits and cuts (to the point where a clock in the background keeps leaping around) and an ending wherein Homer apparently "attacks" interviewer Godfrey Jones (by simply zooming in on a still image):
Homer: Well, someone had to drive the babysitter home. That's when I noticed she was sitting on—her can—oh, just thinking about her—sweet—sweet—can—can...
- Homer himself becomes one in an episode where he gets yet another job as food critic for the Springfield Shopper. At first, his love of food prompts him to write glowing reviews of every restaurant in town, which, in addition to fattening up the populace, makes the other reporters of the Shopper look bad. They urge Homer to start writing negative reviews instead, and he follows their advice, coming up with extremely nasty pieces without even bothering to dine at the restaurants. The eateries' owners decide to kill Homer to save their businesses.
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series: Eddie Brock is a sleazy hack, plain and simple. Not only was he fully prepared to expose Curt Connors as the Lizard and ruin his life to benefit his career, he also takes advantage of Jonah's hatred of Spider-Man to frame him for the theft of a rare mineral in order to get his job at the Daily Bugle back.
- Played With in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, "The Krabby Kronicle". Upon seeing the potential of money being made from newspapers, Mr. Krabs sets up his own newspaper business aptly named the Krabby Kronicle with SpongeBob as his reporter. However, things get out of hand when Mr. Krabs tells SpongeBob to "embellish" his stories. Being The Ditz that he is, SpongeBob goes around taking pictures of everyone in Bikini Bottom and writes out-of-context stories from them. This turns the newspaper brand into a huge success, but at the expense of ruining people's lives through gossip. Eventually, SpongeBob starts realizing what he's doing wrong and tries to warn Mr. Krabs about it, but he becomes too self-absorbed in his wealth by that point and threatens to take away SpongeBob's fry cooking job. In a clever act of karma, SpongeBob decides to twist Mr. Krab's threat into a story to make it seem like he's being unfairly overworked and underpaid, and combined with the testimonies of the other offended victims, results in everyone boycotting the business and taking back all the money earned from it.
- Superman: The Animated Series
- "Livewire" gives us Leslie Willis, a nasty radio shock jock whose "reporting" consists of malicious stories and rants about people she doesn't like, especially the Man of Steel himself. A freak accident turns her into the supervillainess Livewire, with the power to manipulate electricity. She proved so popular in the show that she was added to the comics and subsequent TV shows.
- "Superman's Pal" presents the Planet's gossip reporter, Angela Chen, as also being immoral in a more passive way. When Superman refuses to give her a statement on his latest rescue, she fixes on Jimmy Olsen, who she saw him thank for helping with the evacuation. She convinces him to give her an interview on his relationship with Superman (though Jimmy insists it's just barely a relationship) and then cuts the footage to make it sound like Jimmy is saying that they're close friends and he's saved Superman's life before. This nearly gets him killed when the town crooks start taking the story seriously, but Angela refuses to recant it, instead calling Jimmy ungrateful for rejecting the publicity.