IJPC Publishes Study on How Journalists Are Portrayed in the Early Years of the Silent Film

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The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture
Journal (IJPC)
Publishes Study on How Journalists
Are Portrayed in the Early years of the Silent Film

A groundbreaking study of journalists’ portrayals in the first years of the silent film is featured in the seventh edition of The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture Journal (The IJPC Journal). Other articles add to our critical understanding of how movies based on comic book superheroes have depicted the news media, and offer a glimpse at a heretofore un-examined area of study—the image of the journalist in British novels over the past century.

IJPC silent film image
“The Image of the Journalist in Silent Film, 1890 to 1929: Part One 1890 to 1919,” by Joe Saltzman with Liz Mitchell, is a comprehensive examination of how motion pictures in their infancy regularly turned to the press as subject matter. It is the first comprehensive study of the beginning of cinema’s earliest depictions of the journalist, mostly newspaper reporters, editors and publishers.

Although most of these movies have been lost (as is the case with the vast majority of silent films), detailed plot summaries and production stills can be found in silent film periodicals of the era, and they reveal that most of the clichés and stereotypes of today’s portrayals of journalists date back to the earliest days of film. Saltzman and Mitchell’s study examines the extent to which these depictions of the press were positive or negative; it also details the character types that emerged: the hard-bitten male reporter, the adventure-seeking war correspondent, the tough-but-tender female reporter, the advice-to-the-lovelorn columnist, the green cub reporter, the bellowing big-city editor, the sinister media baron, the acerbic drama critic, and the plucky newsboy, among others. The article also looks at the influence of the newspaper on silent film plots as part of a broader consideration of the relationship between the news media and the entertainment industry during the silent film era. Included with the article are links to 11 appendices that contain original reviews and summaries of the films that were examined as part of the study.

Katherine A. Foss’s “No Longer Seeking `Truth, Justice and the American Way’: Journalists and the Press in Comic Books and Contemporary Film Adaptations” looks at recent Hollywood adaptations of such comic book franchises as Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and Captain America. In earlier movies about these superheroes, journalist characters often played key roles and the films presented a comparatively upbeat portrayal of the press. However, Foss argues that the movies of the past decade or so have minimized the role of journalism or have made the media an instrument for villainy. She considers the unsettling implications of such depictions for popular perceptions of journalism at a time when public trust in the news media is at a low ebb.

Sarah Lonsdale’s essay “The Journalist in British Fiction” presents a brief overview of her new book on the subject. She has studied more than 150 novels, short stories, poems, and plays that have focused on journalism in some way and that were written by British authors aiming at a broad “middlebrow” audience. Lonsdale suggests that fiction can provide unique insight into the mindset of the British journalist at specific historical moments over the past 100 years as well as into shifting literary attitudes toward the news media.

Please read these articles at


The IJPC Journal is accepting manuscripts on any aspect of the image of the journalist or the public relations practitioner in popular culture.  Please contact the IJPC editors Joe Saltzman (saltzman@usc,edu), Matthew C. Ehrlich (mehrlich@illinois.edu), and Sammye Johnson  (sjohnson@trinity.edu).