Just the facts, ma’am: Journalism in comic books

Journalists are portrayed in comic books, but it doesn't always mean that the comparisons are accurate. / Nichole Crawford, Times-News correspondent

By Logan A. White
Times-News correspondent

   “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s … Superman!
If those words were uttered in a city today, they’d be accompanied by the snapping shutters of iPhones and Galaxies, followed by a frenzied flurry of social media updates. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube would suddenly be filled with tidbits of information and speculation about a new, superpowered phenomenon. Once something is big on social media, chances are it will make the news. In comic books, the media, especially newspapers, play a huge role in the tales of heroes. In fact, journalism is the job of choice of several popular superheroes, including Spider-Man and Superman. So why is reporting such a clever career for crime-fighters?
Once their mask is off, every superhero has a career. Writing for a newspaper is a great way to get up close and personal with the details surrounding a crime and a way to learn more about a villain’s motives.
“Investigative reporters dig deep into a specific topic or issue to uncover information that isn’t easily accessible or widely known. That digging can take the form of public records requests to government agencies,” said Times-News police reporter Natalie Allison Janicello.
Superpowered snooping is part of the job description. As investigative reporters, heroes have a good excuse for absences  – technically, they were at the scene of the crime.
Comics also use journalism as a storytelling device.

“It’d make sense for a reporter to be at the scene of a dangerous or major event, thus it’s an excellent opportunity for superheroes to be nearby. It also assists the reader. Several comics will have a reporter, usually in television, bring a crisis to a hero’s attention while also explaining the background to readers,” said Times-News government reporter Anna Johnson. “I’m not sure it plays so much of a critical role versus a convenient one.”
However, just because journalism is a convenient plot device doesn’t mean that writers portray it correctly.
“There are major ethical breaches when reporters or love interests (i.e. Lois Lane) report on themselves or the superheroes they are involved with,” Johnson added.
The comic book universe and journalism are permanently intertwined, but the underlying reason may seem unusual. What’s the real reason so many comic crime-fighters are journalists? Maybe it’s because they are one and the same.
“Journalists are supposed to be watchdogs of government and society and still play a crucial role in keeping members of the public informed about what’s happening in world and in their own backyards,” Janicello said.
Sounds a lot like the job description of a hero, doesn’t it? Journalists are the true superheroes of our society, fictional or not. Next time you pick up a newspaper or a comic book, think of the heroes both on and behind the pages. Happy reading.

Logan A. White is a home-schooled sophomore and a Teens & 20s writer.

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