Strawman News Media

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You cannot hope to bribe or twist
Thank God! The British journalist
But seeing what the man will do

Unbribed, there's no occasion to.
Humbert Wolfe

The news media are all about investigative journalism and digging up the truth, right?

WRONG!

In fiction, the news media will be presented in one of five ways:

See also Old Media Are Evil. Not to be confused with Strawman New Media.

Please exercise restraint when adding Real Life examples. Don't use this page to bash particular newspapers or networks. Suffice it to say that each option has quite a few people who believe it's Truth in Television.

Examples of Strawman News Media include:

Comics[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In various tellings of Superman's origin, when Clark Kent arrives in Metropolis, the Daily Planet is the only newspaper not a Type 1 that supports Lex Luthor.
  • In Ann Nocenti's final issue of her Daredevil run, the Kingpin decides that if he can't force newspapers to run or not run the stories he wants, he will start his own Type 4 variant media empire.

Kingpin: What sells newspapers?
Underling: Crime... Tragedy... Violence...
Kingpin: Well then, we'll just have to start a war.

    • In one of her earlier issues, a reporter actively encourages a vigilante killer because it makes a great story.
  • The news show/comic "Around Cybertron" in Transformers: Shattered Glass is something of a combination of Types 2 & 4. 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.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Meet John Doe and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington are Type 1 all the way, with the media (and politics) 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.
    • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: the opposition presses are not destroyed. Instead 4 tactics are used.
      • Locked up: Smith supporters are arrested or dispersed by the riot police.
      • Locked out: opposition reporters are unable to enter their offices.
      • Bought off: several newspaper and radio stations are bribed into siding with the robber baron. Others are simply taken over with money and then shut down.
      • Beat up: adult protesters are met with fire hoses and the Boy Rangers are assaulted.
  • A Face In The Crowd: Type 1, 2, 3, 4. Rhodes's behavior is ignored or encouraged by his backers. [1]
  • The First Men in the Moon: The media are type 4. Once the first reporter attempts to interview a United Nations official, the message spreads and soon dozens of reporters are present. [2]
  • UBS in Network is Type 4, dissolving its news division and rolling it into its entertainment division after Howard Beale's rants become a hit. Later, they cross over into Type 1 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 Type 1 version of this 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, type 1 is shown. Umbrella covers up the virus outbreak and uses it's power to convince everybody that Raccoon City was destroyed went the reactor exploded. In addition to the media, the state governor approves of Umbrella's actions. No mention is made of the people who escaped the city. We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future is used in reverse, the video showing the truth is declared a forgery. [3]
  • The media in V for Vendetta was a mix of Type 2 and Type 3 (conservative): It's 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 Type 4, 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 the second variation of Type 4 (with a slight flavoring of Type 2), 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 Type 4 Played for Laughs, with much of the action focusing on (and mocking) a vapid TV morning talk show.
  • A Type 4 news media plays heavily into the plot of S.F.W., turning its protagonist into an unwitting celebrity after he's caught in a hostage situation.
  • Idiocracy depicts a future news media that has descended into an extreme Type 4, starting with the news anchors being a shirtless hunk and a bikini model.
  • It's implied that CBS in The Insider had to be harangued into doing its job, as per Type 1. The film is Based on a True Story, but see it yourself and do a little googling.
  • In The Chase, every single news outlet in Southern California is a Type 4. One of the drinking game rules is drink whenever some reporter tells you their channel is the first to bring you anything about the chase. And given this movie was made in 1994, it's become even more Hilarious in Hindsight.
  • The New York Inquirer from Citizen Kane is Type 4. Type 1 is actually Subverted as Kane attacks his own business interests in order to piss off Mr. Thatcher.
  • The news in Repo Man is Type 2. It's played for laughs, and you can usually count on it for a Funny Background Event.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The classic example of Type 2 - George Orwell's 1984, where the government control was so intensive that they had an entire department devoted to altering historical records.
  • The entire news media in World War Z is portrayed as Type 4. Their quest for ratings is partly responsible for the disaster at Yonkers, which starts the Great Panic. They also cross over with Type 1 when they hype up Phalanx, a vaccine for the zombie virus (which was then believed to be a strain of rabies) which turns out to be little more than a placebo.
  • The Daily Prophet from the Harry Potter series is solidly Type 2, especially in Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows. In fact, the newspaper is such a mouthpiece for the Ministry of Magic that it seems quite happy to simply change its views whenever a new Minister comes into power.
  • Orson Scott Card's novel Empire depicts pretty much every media outlet except for Fox News as a left-wing Type 3.
  • America (The Book) contains a one-page Take That at the media for abdicating their responsibilities of fact-checking government processes in favor of ratings, pointing out how, when America was getting ready to invade Iraq, the media was covering the finale of Friends and the Kobe Bryant rape case. It also mocks political cartoons like Mallard Fillmore and Doonesbury for letting their politics get in the way of the humor.
  • In Terry England's Rewind, the media goes nuts over the Rewound Children and proceeds to make their lives miserable.
  • John Ringo tends to write extreme type 3s, 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.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Babylon 5: President Clark turned the news media into a type 2 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 a Type 5 covering up some new, powerful invisible enemy, using their own distrust and paranoia against them.
  • The Sentinel: Type 4. 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 news media is type 4, ratings are the only concern. Cop Rock - For The Record
  • CBS in The Insider has shades of Type 1, though it's not so much the parent company as the possible new parent company if a buyout happens.
  • 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.
  • JAG: All types were used. But, in the later seasons the storylines presented the United States military as an Eagleland with infinite Patriotic Fervor. [4]
  • Flash Gordon: the only media seen on Earth are the type 4 Strawman News Media. Both of the TV stations shown are obssesed with ratings and Dale’s attempts to promote the value of integrity are ignored. Dales competitor is the Hot Scoop.
  • The media figures on Parks and Recreation generally fall under Type 4, though Type 1 came up briefly when a reporter refused to do a negative story about the big company which owned her newspaper. They are decidedly not Type 2 considering the main characters work for the government and the media is almost never on their side.
  • The whole premise of Drop the Dead Donkey seems to revolve around Globelink being Type 1, though of course it's not a particularly badly written series. 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 and Order has done this many times, always type 4:
    • First, there was 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).
    • Later was Embedded. A muckraking journalist who prided himself on exposing corruption was apparently shot by a US soldier after he gave away troop positions in a broadcast. The case is hampered when the federal government arrests the reporter and charges him with treason, and when new evidence emerges indicating that the reporter might have set it all up. Based on a similar controversy surrounding Geraldo Rivera's broadcasts in Afghanistan.
    • Public Service Homicide featured a pedophile being murdered. It turned out that the murderer (who had been raped by the pedophile many years before) confronted him for a TV show (on victims confronting their abusers), and the investigation then examines whether or not the producer manipulated the whole thing. Based on Dateline and the To Catch a Predator show.
    • The last time was in the season 19 episode Anchors Away) The victim was a journalist who had been demoted to type-4 duty thanks to newsroom politics, and the two news anchors were full-out type 4 as well. Part of the investigation involved determining which anchor was type-5 and was talking to the chief suspect, a Bernie Madoff expy. Based on the Bernie Madoff case.

Music[edit | hide]

  • Don Henley's song "Dirty Laundry" describes Type 4.
  • Green Day's American Idiot mentions 'one nation controlled by the media' in a negative light.
  • The trope-quote-giver, Joe Jackson's Sunday Papers, is an extended Take That! at the seedier end of the British Sunday newspaper market - Type Four, mainly, but bearing in mind their ownership by such as Rupert Murdoch, Types One and Three raise their equally ugly heads, Hydra-like.
    • The Police cover similar ground on their first LP with the scathing and sarcastic track Peanuts.

Video Games[edit | hide]

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Web Original[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Weather News Network in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs could count as a Type 4, as Sam's attempt to report on the food storm is cut off by the head news anchor, due to her not being attractive enough to be on camera (though that may just be their opinion).
  • A type 4 appears in Invader Zim, when a Girl Scout expy gets her foot stuck in Zim's lawn. The media flocks to report on the horror that the poor little girl is going through.
  • Type 5 appears in 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.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • In Real Life, every major news outlet has been hit with Type 3 over the course of its existence. Fox News Channel, The Washington Times, and talk radio stations usually get the conservative version, The New York Times and most newspapers and, recently, MSNBC often get the liberal version, and CNN has gotten both. Once again, please remember the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment.
    • More recently, they've started to pick up accusations of Type 4 as well, with a recent poll showing that only 30% of the public actually trust or rely on the news. You can't help but think that the news media brought it on themselves though, thanks to Missing White Woman Syndrome and various cases of Worst News Judgment Ever. It appears that, in the eyes of many, Types 1, 3 and especially 4 are Truth in Television.
      • It definitely didn't help that Dan Rather said that the Tiger Woods scandal was "serious news".
    • Some who Take a Third Option think that, in real life, the media is most likely a fusion of Types 1 and 4 and especially type 6 as oppose to Type 3. They basically say that the news media isn't biased to the left or the right, but instead to whatever the status quo is at the moment.
      • In addition, there is a reason that NBC and MSNBC usually don't do stories harming GE, CBS didn't badmouth Viacom before the 2005 split, ABC doesn't go off on Disney, and Fox won't say a bad word about Rupert Murdoch. That reason is 'GE owns NBC/MSNBC, Disney owns ABC, and Murdoch owns Fox'.
    • The mere existence of E! and ESPN's "news" branch exemplify Type 4.
  • One report said another reason for this trope is that a lot of the older journalists are way too cynical, and indifferent to really care about being a hard nosed investigative journalist. While younger reporters/journalists are too scared to speak out or go against the status quo. Which leads to the media being uninformative.
  • Conspiracy theorists often label the entire news media with Type 1, Type 2 and especially Type 5. We could go through a whole extra trope page listing examples of conspiracy theorists who have done this.
  • Media in totalitarian countries (most notably in the former Soviet Union and its allies) is usually Type 2. The actual effect of it, however, was rather different, with many people coming to believe the exact opposite of what was reported.
    • A joke that could fit just fine at the top of the page comes from this. Two Soviet papers were called "Pravda" and "Izvestia" which are "Truth" and "News," respectively. The saying goes, "There is no news in the Truth (pravda), and there is no truth in the News (Izvestia)"
  • Truth in Television in Japan, where the "Press Clubs" kiss up to politicians to get information. This has gotten to the point where most Japanese will read weekly news magazines. Even though these magazines have touches of tabloid media to them, they contain more truthful, investigative journalism than the papers or television news, and have been responsible for breaking major news stories.
  • The "yellow journalism" of the late 19th/early 20th century was a mixture of Types 1 and 4, with the papers (most notably William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World) publishing ever-more-sensational and outrageous Lurid Tales of Doom in order to one-up the competition and gain readership.
    • A particularly infamous example of this was in 1898, when the yellow press arguably started a war. Following the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, Hearst and Pulitzer immediately started blaming the Spanish for the explosion, and published sensationalistic stories about Spanish atrocities in Cuba. The result was the Spanish-American War. A common myth claims that Hearst told his illustrator Frederic Remington "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war" in response to Remington telling him that conditions in Cuba weren't bad enough to start a war over. To this day, it is unknown and hotly debated what caused the explosion aboard the Maine.
      • The "arguable" part comes in when one realizes that the yellow press held little sway outside of New York City, and that public opinion nationwide was already calling for war. Much of it is likely because Hearst himself took credit for starting the Spanish-American War—the Journal had been running stories about atrocities in Cuba for years by this point, and one week after the war started, the front page of the Journal read "How do you like the Journal's war?"
    • Joseph Pulitzer would later renounce yellow journalism and turn his paper, the New York World, into a much more reputable publication. There's a reason why the Pulitzer Prize, given for excellency in journalism, is named after him.
  • Richard Desmond's papers in the UK are accused of being Type 4's: the Daily Star has a reputation for being obsessed with reality television and gossip and the Daily Express has a reputation of being obsessed with Princess Diana, Maddie McCann, or both; Private Eye has accused the Diana headlines also being a type 1 and/because of Desmond being friends with Diana's prospective father-in-law and former Harrod's owner Mohammed al-Fayed. Both papers also have a worrying amount of infotisement for the Five channels since Desmond acquired them. Likewise, the Daily Sport is widely considered to be little more than softcore porn mixed in with some Weekly World News stories.
    • Britain has at least one national newspaper in every position. The Times, the Daily Telegraph, and possibly The Guardian are either Type 1 or Type 2, depending on your point of view and the government of the day. The Daily Mirror likewise straddles Types 3 and 4 depending on the government. The Daily Mail is Type 3, the Express and Star alternate between Type 3 and 4 depending on the day/page, and The Sun behaves like a Type 3 while actually being a Type 4, and the Daily Sport is a solid Type 4.
  • French big media are either Type 1 or Type 2. They are financially controlled by either the French State or a few billionaires. Journalists pretend that this financial control has no influence on their work... but you can have some doubt about it. The billionaires that own the big media also own private companies that work directly for the French State. What could be wrong about that ?