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' from thinking.
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 crime, 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, and only say 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. Or they will actively promote the idea that the world is a Crapsack World (because If It Bleeds, It Leads), try their best to scare people into continuing to watch the news, and blame all the woes on political opponents.
Compare with Propaganda Piece. See also Old Media Are Evil. Likely to be staffed by the Fox News Liberal and the Pompous Political Pundit, and possibly an Immoral Journalist. Can sadly be Truth in Television.
- The nation of Luzianna in ∀ Gundam takes to censorship around the middle of the series to hide the fact that the war against the Moonrace is not going well at all. They don't menace journalists, though—rather, they happily buy up whatever articles or photographs they produce, and then decline to publish them anywhere.
- In various tellings of Superman's origin, when Clark Kent arrives in Metropolis, the Daily Planet and all the newspapers are controlled by Lex Luthor.
- In the last issue of Ann Nocenti's 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. Even with his bias against superheroes, he believes most of the stories he publishes slamming them to be true and will make retractions if shown otherwise.
- When Max Allan Collins was writing Dick Tracy in The '70s, he introduced Wendy Wichell, a reporter who skewed every news story to make the police look like brutal thugs, and Tracy in particular. This was a bit of Leaning on the Fourth Wall Take That! against Moral Guardians claiming the Dick Tracy comic is too violent.
- 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 Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, this trope is surprisingly averted given that the Republic Intelligence Service has utterly supplanted the normal civilian government, but they're perfectly content to let the media report everything, from Poke the Poodle to mad science and even slavery to fuel aforementioned mad science. It's a bit of a Xanatos Gambit, if people see this as crossing the Godzilla Threshold they will support RISE; if people rebel the government has an excuse to crack down even more in the name of galactic security.
- The Triptych Continuum of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics has Murdocks, a rare example of an anti-government Strawman News Media that seems to exist solely to criticize and disagree with anything the Diarchy says or does. note There is also a more rarely seen pro-Diarchy media which is equally mindless in its support of the government.
- The Devil's in the details: In "Excommunicado", Peter manages to undo Mysterio's attempt at pinning Peter for the attack on London by accusing the Daily Bugle of posting an altered video accusing him of being a terrorist without fact-checking, basically putting a target on a minor. While Peter is Spider-Man, the various points he make are legit enough for suspicion to be thrown off of him and get the Daily Bugle in trouble. The fact that Peter still has the stubs to photographs he took of himself as Spider-Man at street level is only more damning on the Daily Bugle's part. By the time it goes to court, Matt paints J. Jonah Jameson as a psychopath taking out a personal grudge against Peter (who is, again, just a teenager) by accusing him of being a superpowered terrorist.
"Peter, I know you can hear me. You're scared, a scared child, a scared child that just got accused of being someone with a lot of very powerful enemies. I need you to be smart about it. And you are very fucking smart."
- 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. At the time Mr. Smith was released, however, it was considered very believable and topical because of the audience's then-recent experiences with Tammany Hall scandals.
- 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's 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.
- Broadcast News shows a bit of this. Notable is an early scene where Holly Hunter's character while addressing a conference of local TV newscasters, screens some of the vapid, fluffy clips that are presented as "news" in place of genuinely important stories... and the assembled anchors spontaneously applaud at the clips.
- The bad guys in Akira Kurosawa film Scandal are the sleazy gossip-mongers of a sleazy tabloid, who print scurrilous rumors without bothering to make sure they're true, and who then bribe lawyers after being sued for slander.
- The entire plot of Five Star Final. The Gazette is a trashy tabloid which does not hesitate to ruin a human life in order to sell more papers. Randall and his secretary Taylor are the only ones who even have a hint of conscience about exposing Nancy Townsend to public shame and destroying her life.
- In the first Spider-Man Trilogy films, J. Jonah Jameson again proves he is the exception and not the rule. When confronted with evidence that photos he published of Spider-Man committing criminal acts were faked, his first response is to fire the offending journalist and lament that, for the first time in 20 years, he will have to print a retraction. It's a subtle line, but it shows that as an editor, he is so dedicated to getting it right the first time, not even tiny slip-ups (like a mistyped data or typoed name) are allowed to go to print. He's just that good.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home reveals in The Stinger that the MCU version of The Daily Bugle is a political talk show instead of a newspaper, still manned by J. Jonah Jameson (who is still portrayed by J. K. Simmons), who takes doctored footage of Mysterio's rampage and death (that puts the blame on Spider-Man) as gospel truth and in the space of a single minute turns all of New York against "the menace" once again. Talk about a Sudden Downer Ending.
- One of the DVD extras for Ant-Man features Scott Lang being interviewed by a news program concerning the vandalism that landed him in jail. Although he tries to explain away his reasonings (a demonstration against corporate corruption), it turns out that the news program is controlled by said corporation and so the interviewer makes every effort to ensure that the corporation remains above reproach.
- Hometown Story (notable today mostly because it is an early appearance of Marilyn Monroe) is essentially an entire film of this. A former senator returns home to run the town paper. Wanting to increase his popularity so that he can retake his Senate seat, he starts looking for a "cause" that he can champion. After failing to prove that the local factory is polluting the river (because it isn't), he starts running a daily opinion piece about the dangers of corporate profits run amok. Unfortunately, he completely ignores the real social and economic arguments on this issue and instead basically just asks "why should big companies make so much money?" This makes it easy for the local business tycoon (who owns the aforementioned factory) to show up and decimate him with a short speech about how "the real profits are all the benefits consumers get from these products." Then to drive the point home, the newspaper man's little sister is trapped by a cave-in, and the "big corporations" jump in to save her.
- In Starship Troopers, the Federal Network reported on the (probably) coincidental asteroid strike as an attack on earth by the Arachnids on Clendatu. The disaster is twisted in such a way that makes it seem like the Terran Federation has no choice but to declare war on Klendathu. The Network also espouse anti-Arachnid propaganda, with one interviewee stating "the only good bug, is a dead bug!" and a mother gleefully cheering as her children squish some insects on earth. The Network also glorifies the military, and is putting a very positive spin on how the invasion of Klendathu is quickly becoming a quagmire.
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- In April Showers, TV executive Helen Mann is shown to manipulate Jason (who has just survived a school shooting and seems to be developing PTSD) in service of getting a good story of a "hero".
- Bob Roberts: Aside from Bugs, all of the news media are easily manipulated or biased for Roberts, uncritically passing on his faked claims about his opponent and himself.
- The classic example of media controlled by a tyrannical government: George Orwell's 1984, where the government control was so intensive that they had an entire department devoted to altering historical records. Of course, one of the points of 1984 is that the Soviet government was and had been doing this for the past twenty years.
- 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 change its views whenever a new Minister comes to 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 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, meanwhile, the paper touts Harry as The Chosen One, conveniently 'forgetting' that they'd spent the previous year smearing him. When Hermione asks Rita Skeeter in Phoenix if the Prophet is in the business of saying whatever the Ministry tells its staff 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 (Terry England), 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 military thriller Victoria, written by an ultraconservative author, treats the mainstream media mainly as the blindly loyal Propaganda Machine of the villainous Wall Street oligarchs and corrupt bipartisan consensus insiders. There are exceptions, but they tend to be more of the underground media variety.
- The more of a celebrity the protagonist of the Jessica Christ series becomes, the more she grows to hate the press, most members of which seem to be out to make her look as bad as possible. It doesn't help that she gets easily flustered when interviewed and tends to provide a ton of statements that are easy to quote out of context - at one point, she somehow managed to assure the reporter that she was definitely not raising an army of The Undead.
- 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 six-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 villains' 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 obsessed with ratings and Dale's attempts to promote the value of integrity are ignored.
- In Parks and Recreation a reporter refuses to do a negative story about the big company that 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 (whom the paedophile had raped 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.
- "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.
We can do the innuendo
We can dance and sing
When all's said and done
We haven't told you a thing
- Ice T's song with Bodycount, "Now Sports" criticises the news for its vapidity and indifference to human suffering:
Seventeen youths killed in gang homicides.
- The All American Report seems to be a straw man for "old school" wrestling "purists" who hate the modern independent circuit, although many of Ashley America's views about "tradition" are unfounded.
- Reflecting Michael Jackson's view of the press (see Music above), the Cirque du Soleil show Michael Jackson ONE has this trope serve as the primary antagonist — the Tabloid Junkies are evil Paparazzi who harass the other characters and the audience, and are revealed to be servants of Mephisto (aka the Paparazzi Monster), a Humongous Mecha.
- 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 happening on Earth, and you can win her over to your side.
- The various news sources in the Xtended Game Mod for X3: Terran Conflict slide between being legitimate news sources, such as the multi-racial GalNet News and the Argon Federation's Interstellar Broadcast Corporation, to crazy nationalist sources like the Solara News Network (considers the Solaran military to be the most competent, downplays corruption, Terrans are literally the devil, etc) and the racist and hyper-isolationist Terran Morning News (one article, for example, claims that the Kingdom Of Boron may be descendants of Terran aquatic life and, therefore, are a Terran colony subject to Terran taxes).
- Raptor News Network (RNN) and its chief anchor Bob Barbas in Dm C Devil May Cry is the propaganda arm of Mundus' demonic empire, used to keep the human population docile through a mix of lies, banality and outright brainwashing as well as slandering any threats to their control, such as Dante.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution has the Picus Group, a 24-hour global media conglomerate with a heavy anti-aug bias, who are eventually revealed to be controlled by The Illuminati to "spin the news" worldwide in their favor. Midway through the game you raid their global headquarters, discovering a hidden base where their more blatant fabrications and manipulations are conducted and learning that their head anchor, Eliza Cassan, is actually an advanced Illuminati AI designed to monitor global communications and censor what they don't want people to hear.
- 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.
- Schlock Mercenary: The Credomaran news, mostly represented by Frank Hannibal. Hannibal hides behind journalistic integrity, then intentionally tries to make the mercenaries look bad for ratings by editing the footage to the point of just flat-out making things up. He even helps spread a blatantly false story about the mercenaries infiltrating the station for weeks (they had only been there for a few days) and torturing residents. LOTA's second act as king of the station is to shut Hannibal down, hard.
LOTA: Now please stop pretending you are the voice of the people. You are simply loud, and wearing a microphone.
- Lovely People: Journalists are mentioned to all be verified by the World Council. They are also heavily implied to be mouthpieces for World Council propaganda.
- Welcome to Night Vale is a sympathetic example. Cecil is, aside from occasional moments of ambiguous sarcasm, always very positive about the viciously totalitarian city government. This is Played for Laughs most of the time, but once StrexCorp takes over the town it gets increasingly obvious that what he's allowed to say is heavily censored, and he isn't happy about that. At one point, he gives the end of the episode from the roof because they cut his mic, but he pirated the signal in order to continue talking about Tamika Flynn's rebellion.
- FreedomToons: The Echo Chamber hosted by Dr. Mac is an In-Universe news show with an extreme left-wing bias replete with Demonization, Strawmanning, Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics, and Insane Troll Logic.
- 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 Broadcasting's flagship show is as biased and subordinate to evil tyrant Rupert Murdoch (who once voiced himself there, no less).
- An entire episode — the season 15 finale, "Fraudcast News" — 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.
- Another episode to lampoon this was "Homer Badman", which insulted sensationalist news media, overblown scandals, one-sided stories, and their ability to ruin people's lives. Homer is accused of grabbing a babysitter's butt and made out to be a sexual predator with mobs gathered outside his house and news cameras pointing through his window. On the DVD commentary for the episode, the writers argue that the episode is more relevant now than it was when it aired.
- 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.