Media People in the Medium of Literature

It’s not news that some fictional characters work in the media. The casts of more than a few literary works contain reporters, columnists, bloggers, TV hosts, and other information/entertainment purveyors.

Those media people can be major protagonists, secondary characters who objectively or not so objectively observe what the main characters do, or just bit players. They’re smart, curious, driven, idealistic, investigative, crusading, accurate, sloppy, biased, cynical, pompous, abrasive, or egotistic — or several of those things, and more.

And they don’t just appear in post-19th-century novels. I recently read Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady, and among the most interesting characters is journalist Henrietta Stackpole. She’s friends with the novel’s American-in-Europe protagonist Isabel Archer, and provides a valuable perspective as a “modern woman” watching Isabel struggle with the constraints placed on most females back then. And unlike the wealthier characters who just talk and visit in that stellar James novel, Henrietta actually works for a living!

Moving to the 20th century and another gender, we have cynical journalist Will Farnaby checking out a utopian society in Aldous Huxley’s last novel: Island. Are the words “cynical” and “journalist” almost redundant? In many cases, but there are also many nice media people — including the very talented writers in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists organization of which I’m a member.

Columnists appear in novels such as Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men — with the latter book’s Jack Burden becoming an aide to Huey Long-like politician Willie Stark and playing a crucial role as the book’s narrator. He’s also an example of the way many media people cycle in and out of politics.

“Miss Lonelyhearts” is the alias of a male advice-giver who gets depressed from the painful letters he has to read. The late twins Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren handled that burden a lot better in real life, and didn’t get into the trouble West’s character did! Landers was even the subject of a play a few years ago — David Rambo’s The Lady With All the Answers.

The most famous play about journalism might be Ben Hecht’s and Charles MacArthur’s The Front Page, which of course was also adapted for the screen.

Perhaps the most famous reporter in recent fiction is none other than the nasty, at times weirdly charming Rita Skeeter of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. A biased tabloid reporter who would do just about anything for a scoop.

Speaking of that last word and sensationalistic reporting, there’s Evelyn Waugh’s satirical novel Scoop.

Among the other literary works featuring journalists is Robertson Davies’ Murther & Walking Spirits, whose newspaper threesome includes a still-existing-in-a-way murdered man, the murdered man’s widow, and the murderer who had been sleeping with the murdered man’s wife. National Enquirer material!

Fay Weldon’s The Bulgari Connection contains another trio: a man, the woman he divorces, and the younger woman he takes up with. The last is a glamorous, obnoxious TV host.

Fictional TV reporters also frequently make cameo appearances in novels, with one example being the smug, faux-sweet Tina Ultner in Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior.

Print-media people can have small roles, too — as is the case with Alabama newspaperman Braxton Underwood, a racist who nonetheless was prepared to prevent a lynching in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Can comic book cartoonists be considered media people? If so, there are two memorable ones in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay who are loosely based on Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the real-life “Superman” creators so monetarily exploited by corporate men in suits.

An honorable mention in this post is the real-life Nellie Bly, the famous journalist with a literary connection: She tried to circle the globe faster than the fictional Phileas Fogg did in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, and finished her 1889-90 trip in just over 72 days.

What are some of your favorite literary works featuring media people in big or small roles? And given that there aren’t a huge number of such characters in fiction, you’re also welcome to discuss nonfiction books by or about media people, or discuss real-life media people you like best or least!

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else. Also, please feel free to read through comments and reply to anyone you want; I love not only being in conversations, but also reading conversations in which I’m not involved!)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also in the middle of writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in New York City and Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

190 thoughts on “Media People in the Medium of Literature

  1. The one book, given the week’s topic, I’d hoped someone would mention, or more importantly, recommend: New Grub Street by George Gissing. Haven’t read it myself, but I’ve had a curiosity about it for some years. Anybody a veteran?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A writer I haven’t read in some time and a protagonist who is based on a writer who really should be more widely read, Ambrose Bierce via Carlos Fuentes in his novel The Old Gringo. I’m sure most readers are familiar with Bierce’s classic short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and perhaps The Devils Dictionary but besides an always readable oeuvre that includes many tales that presage an almost Twilight Zone sensibility and approach to morals he was also a major journalist in the Hearst empire. Fuentes novel is based on the real life mystery of Bierce’s end. At 71 he disappeared quite possibly into Mexico during the revolution led by Poncho Villa . The book has him successfully raise the consciousness of an American do gooder type who had come to tutor a rich general’s children and teach the superiority of the American way to Mexicans overall. He also tries to reengage a rouge revolutionary commander into the larger cause and away from what’s become a somewhat personal vendetta. This unfortunately gets him in front of a firing squad. I always love how well all the great Latin American authors can so seamlessly weave the big events and movements of their history into the life’s of their characters. It also occurs to me that actual writers who were hijacked to become characters in other writers stories would make for an interesting essay ,the Oedipal slant alone is quite intriguing .

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    • Great addition to this discussion, Donny, and a wonderful description of the “Old Gringo” book! (Which I’ve yet to read.)

      You’re right that Ambrose Bierce was a journalist as well as author. A couple of years ago, I read a collection of his ghost/horror stories (one of which was the amazing “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” mentioned by you) and many of the tales were spookily excellent. Some were indeed “Twilight Zone”-like.

      I first heard of Bierce in an odd way. I was traveling in France with a girlfriend back in 1980, and we were sitting in a Dijon park talking — in English, of course. A young French guy walked up to us and starting talking about Bierce, whose writing he was totally enamored with. Long story short, the guy visited the U.S. for the first time a few months later, and stayed in my Manhattan apartment before going solo on a Bierce-fueled odyssey across the U.S. He ended up in California, where I assume there was/is a Bierce house or museum or something.

      As for your mention of actual authors in novels, I touched on that in this old post: and a tiny bit in this piece:

      I don’t like giving “clicks” to HP anymore; if you feel the same, feel free to ignore the links. 🙂


      • Great story about the Bierce fanatic in France Dave, I’ll have to check out the columns you linked as I don’t recall them. The young man sounds interesting, I can’t imagine hearing a young couple speaking French and approaching them to discuss ,say, Flaubert . Of course as I don’t speak a word of French so it really is unimaginable.

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      • I keep The Devil’s Dictionary in my briefcase, so that on the subway I always have something outrageously amusing, if not outrageous, to read. Have a collected works hereabouts as well as an early-ish edition of short stories. He deserves more American readers nowadays.

        I wonder what the publishing/critical history of Bierce in France would reveal? How did that young man you hosted come by his obsession?

        Sort of reminds me of rockabilly in the 1980’s. The French had rediscovered it for themselves and were lauding the performances of not a few obscurities that most of us here at the time, and seemingly in a position to know more about, were mostly unaware.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, Donny! And I agree that it would be hard to imagine the theoretical role reversal you mention. Still, given all the literature lovers who thankfully populate this blog, perhaps some of us would do that Flaubert thing. 🙂 Funny last line of yours about not speaking French!

          jhNY, I should read “The Devil’s Dictionary” someday. Sounds like just about the best thing to have on the subway! Great question about how the young man (Bernard) became a Bierce fanatic. I probably once knew, but don’t remember now. Perhaps Bierce (like Poe) had a literary version of Jerry Lewis’ and Woody Allen’s popularity in France, or maybe Bernard had a fascination for America that Bierce somehow embodied. I wasn’t aware of the 1980s French interest in rockabilly!


          • I think Poe’s popularity there can be traced to Baudelaire’s championing of the man, and to what I have been told is a curious fact: that he reads better in French than English– or at least, that he reads better in French after Baudelaire translated him.

            The affection for Lewis, if I recall, is because of 1960’s French cinema criticism’s old darling: the auteur theory. The great thing about the theory is, you can hold it in front of your face and read it while they’re screening The Bellboy.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Fascinating facts about Poe’s French popularity, jhNY! Thanks!

              Ha ha — reading the auteur theory so as to block the view of that Jerry Lewis movie? 🙂 Hilarious!

              I never found Jerry Lewis to be that funny, even though I do like some old-fashioned/on-screen/”dumb” humor (such as The Three Stooges) along with somewhat more sophisticated humor (The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, etc.).


  3. Well, Dave, I think I’ve come across one of my problems in the whole debate about the media and literature debate (which came to me in a dream last night :). You’ve read “Strong Poison” recently so I would posit that Harriet Vane was unfairly tried for a crime by the “media” for a crime she didn’t commit, yet was ultimately saved by a “medium” that she didn’t believe in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • SUCH a clever comment, Kat Lib! Very impressive. 🙂

      Media outlets do love courtroom dramas, which they often cover in a biased way. Seems to be a “crime of the century” every few months…


  4. As a copyboy who only later raised himself into print at the paper, my perspective is more or less that of a cat looking at a king, but:

    The late Ben Bradlee is a fit subject here, though only insofar as a fictional type can be made real by the efforts of the type himself and all who surround him in the business of burnishing a persona. Which may be faint praise, but:

    The Washington Post rose beyond its provincial insularity to become a national newspaper under his theatrical tutelage. He had by the time I worked there eschewed the battered fedora, except possibly when it rained, but he wore his trench coat like the uniform it was– the uniform of the wise old hand, long seasoned in the newspaper game– and his gravel voice rang out over the heads of all of us in the newsroom– irreverent and ever-confident in the sound and soundness of his own conclusions. He was a reporter out of central casting, and as such, he could not be improved upon, nor even aped, as he embodied anachronism that having come again once, would never come twice. But:

    So many of those with the most to gain fastest out of the whole Watergate enterprise and the growing prestige of the newspaper were also young, and not born into their new line of employment. Most were straight out of an Ivy League college, though Woodward and Bernstein were decidedly not. What had prepared them for what a real journalist, a reporter’s reporter, should look like? Movies, I’d wager, and for a few, Edward R. Murrow, who just might have been a model for Bradlee. Bradlee fit the bill of expectation utterly, and gave them confidence that they’d hitched their wagon to a proper star, even as the political pressure of a national party and the most powerful man in the world made the paper circle all of its wagons as best it could, under a hail of slings and arrows.

    A less spectacular sort might well have done a great deal at the Washington Post, might have made it a national paper, even. But to a room full of impressionable idol-seekers, Bradlee provided himself, and required cooperative admiration and only an occasional cigarette, as he was forever failing to quit. And when, in the summer of 1972, the paper was alone in pursuit of a story that no one else could quite begin to touch, he generated, by way of his crafty and crafted persona, the confidence and direction its mostly young reportorial staff fed on and flourished under. The Watergate scandal, its aftermath, its beneficiaries, are unimaginable, are impossible without the presence of this charismatic caricature.

    Washington is the Hollywood of the ugly, it has been said, but in this instance, to mangle Klauswitz, Washington was the continuation of Hollywood by other means.

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    • Thanks, jhNY, for your compelling, eloquent, personal-experience-based take on Ben Bradlee — who I only met once despite working for a newspaper-related magazine for many years. If I’m remembering correctly, it was at a late-1980s conference in which there was a panel discussion about a newspaper syndicate yanking its popular comics and columns out of one Texas newspaper to give them to a rival paper as part of some lucrative deal. Bradlee dismissed the maneuver with some VERY colorful language.

      “Theatrical tutelage” — that was him! Great phrase! He was one of those people who fit the cliche of “larger than life.”

      Watergate was certainly one of the last times a mainstream daily truly took on “the powers that be” (though Nixon was in some ways an easy, expendable target). The mainstream press almost never takes on the true powers — such as corporations that basically run the country. Most dailies are now quite craven.


      • Camelot was among other things, a great compliment in which to be included, as it conferred on the recipient both access and intimacy to the photogenic royal family and his adoring court– a glittering assemblage brought low in Dallas, which was, ever after, in the business of putting itself back together again, and never quite managing the trick. The White House had become their castle, though inhabited subsequently by an ogre, and the knights in their train not only defended sacred memory, but also ran as roughshod as they dared over pretenders of all stripes.

        Nixon was a boor and plainly repulsive to the courtiers and nobles and knights who kept dead Camelot almost alive, who would have had their enmity in any case, but who, by blundering into crime of a pettiness that demeaned the office out of which it sprang, made himself an irresistible target, maneuver though he might, and only attracted more missiles from more quarters over time. His lubricious duplicities, his creaking machinations insulted those he would have fooled. His appeals to the resentments of the people, rather than their hopes, legitimized reactionary impulses among his supporters precisely at a time when some uniting efforts on his part might have brought the nation together. Then there was that secret plan to end the war, which was most of all a secret expansion of same.

        There was very much alive in the newsroom the mostly unspoken notion that we were busy on behalf of larger purposes, purposes larger than the popular will of a benighted electorate, having to do with the institution of the presidency, and the restoration of its former glory– a glory most of all deriving out of the nostalgia for Kennedy’s Camelot, and for loyal yeomen of upper management age, a kind of crystallization of nostalgia for one’s own vanishing youth in the service of the dead king.

        Ben Bradlee, locally, was very much admired and known for having had a place near the king at the round table. He somehow contrived, in the heat and over the long course of the scandal, to make most of us, and make most of the US, forget he had had such a place, or if we didn’t forget it, discount its significance in current events overmuch. After all, pettiness and revenge, we read daily, were the tools of the twisted adversary.

        Of course, Nixon’s great gift to his enemies, from Camelot to campus and all parts between, was that he so richly deserved his downfall, and did so much so often to guarantee it.

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        • Well, you’ve done it again, jhNY — very eloquent, insightful words!

          Rather than respond point by point, I think I’ll rant just a bit: 🙂

          It’s hard nowadays to imagine how pervasive the whole Kennedy/Camelot thing was back then. I remember some of it as a small kid. Later, of course, many of us realized a lot of it was gauzy surface stuff hiding a grimmer reality underneath. JFK — while having some good points as a person and leader — got the U.S. deeper into Vietnam, was a blatant womanizer, etc. And perhaps his father helped swipe the 1960 election. Meanwhile, Jackie was admirable in her way but was hardly a “woman of the people.” She seemed most interested in redecorating the White House.

          So I guess I feel Ben Bradlee’s connection to Camelot was not necessarily to be admired. But of course I’m looking at that from the vantage point of today rather than several decades ago.

          In some ways, Nixon was a better, more liberal president than JFK (in the area of environmentalism, for instance). But of course many of Nixon’s other beliefs and actions were awful, and he was hampered by not having the looks and polish of JFK.


          • Good stuff Dave and nice to see you don’t fall for the whole JFK worship thing many liberals of a certain age seem to indulge in. There was much to admire about the man and his administration and he did appear to be growing in office before his life was tragically ended but he was behind or wrong on a lot of big issues. You might like hearing that once when Patrick Buchannan, who was with Tricky Dick from the start, was asked why they didn’t contest Chicago and the Illinois electoral votes instead of some nonsense about the good of the country and sanctity of elections he owned up that his side had done the same stuff in West Virginia so what would be the point.

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            • Thanks for your comment, Donny. Masterfully stated! Glad you feel similarly about JFK.

              I do agree that JFK grew somewhat in office (in such areas as civil rights and dealing with the Soviet Union). And he might possibly have done better with the second term he would have won in ’64. Some historians say he wouldn’t have escalated U.S. involvement in Vietnam as much as LBJ would do, but I’m not sure I believe that.

              GREAT anecdote about Pat Buchanan and West Virginia! Never heard that one before!


            • Kennedy, as a Cold Warrior, was bristlingly aggressive, even rash, as ever not be outflanked by national security hawks from the other party. But he raised himself up to a kind of on-the-spot wisdom in the Cuban Missile Crisis for which we all should be grateful, as the alternative, so close at hand, was annihilation.

              He was quick enough to realize what events compelled him to do in the area of civil rights, and can only be seen as a champion of them by comparison, too often, to members of his own party below the Mason-Dixon line. Though in that comparison, he would suffer next to LBJ.

              He was mercurial, a gifted speaker who was fast and funny on his rhetorical feet, which helped make him a darling among the liberal portions of the press.

              But he was young and handsome and came from money yet was very nice about it, and made the fantasy of a classless America seem real enough while it lasted.

              He might well have done more good things had he lived– it is reasonable to think he would have, because he could think, and even did so, especially when the need for it was upon him and the nation.

              Liked by 1 person

              • You’re absolutely right, jhNY — JFK was a cold warrior who thankfully did display some wisdom during the Cuban Missile Crisis (perhaps because of what happened during the Bay of Pigs fiasco he wasn’t totally responsible for). And he did take some civil rights steps which, while they seem tentative now and didn’t measure up to LBJ’s later actions, were fairly courageous for pre-November 1963.

                And JFK was indeed a gifted speaker (with the help of VERY gifted speechwriters), young, handsome — and a legitimate World War II hero. Now most politicians and most of the rich in general make sure THEY don’t do any fighting. That’s for “the little people.” 😦

                It would have been fascinating to see how a somewhat more mature JFK would have done in a second presidential term.


          • Nobody in the Democratic Party today, would dare espouse, much less put into practice or law, Nixon’s policies, as they are too liberal for the present electorate. Though in fairness, there was a lot of momentum afoot from things set into motion by that consummate arm-twister, LBJ, which Nixon carried on. I’ve read that the administration, in which literally the most progressive social policies were in force and good order, was his, but again, mostly, but not entirely, for that reason.

            I campaigned for Kennedy in1960, and for the man who would become NC’s governor, Terry Sanford. For which work, my sister and I were invited to attend Sanford’s inaugural– Bobby Kennedy was the featured speaker. My father taught the first group of young people to join the Peace Corps, for which, besides pay, he was rewarded with a trip to the White House, where he met the president. Let’s just say I have a more complicated and nuanced appraisal of the man and those days than I had at the age of ten.

            But whenever I need to remember what true idealism looks like, burning and bright and full of hope and will, I just think back to meeting some of those first Peace Corps volunteers.

            Margaret Dumont: “Ah, you remind me of my youth!”
            Groucho: “He must be a pretty big boy by now.”

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            • Very true, jhNY! The Republican Party back then was quite different from today’s GOP, as were the Democrats then vs. now. The “center” has moved so far to the right it’s pathetic.

              You make a great point I hadn’t thought of — LBJ’s liberal domestic policies did seem to have enough momentum to influence Nixon’s actions to some degree.

              Fantastic that you got to attend that inaugural event, and hear RFK! And it sounds like your father did very admirable work back then relating to the Peace Corps. (My wife was in the Peace Corps for two years — in 1980s Rwanda — before I met her.) There was definitely some idealism back then among many people. Among politicians, that idealism may have been more calculated.

              Love that Dumont/Groucho exchange — and The Marx Brothers in general!!!


              • Ironically Nixon proposed a serious National Health care act that was far more comprehensive and liberal than the ACA we got, for the record IMO it’s a start and the best that could be done politically, but , and here’s the irony, it was tanked by Senator Ted Kennedy because he couldn’t stomach the mandate that was part of it. To his credit Teddy later called that the biggest political regret of his life.

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                  • jhNY, also quite true about Truman! And I agree that the ACA was about all this U.S. system we have allowed to be enacted. Given that greedy medical insurers and pharmaceutical companies continue to make big profits under ACA, they either supported it or didn’t oppose it too strongly.


                • That’s right, Donny! The center-right Nixon of 40-plus years ago was more liberal than the centrist Obama of today in that instance, and a few other instances as well. 😦

                  I agree that the ACA is a start — better than no ACA but much worse than single-payer national health insurance would be. Many other “first world” countries have thankfully taken the profit motive out of health insurance — which should be a governmental thing like public schools, libraries, police departments, and fire departments are. (I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know!)


  5. Hi Dave the topic brings me back to ‘Life of Pi’ again where the author Yann Martel himself narrates the story as the visiting writer , interviewing Pi many years after the Tiger ” Richard Parker” in the boat story. That dialogue makes the book so believable and adventurous for the readers. Then the author brilliantly presents another alternative theme by adult Pi narrating another story by then very young Pi, leaving the readers into a tailspin of guessing game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, bebe, for mentioning how “Life of Pi” was partly framed in that visiting-writer way! I read Yann Martel’s great novel more than 10 years ago, so I had forgotten that. Martel definitely wrote his book in a “format” that was quite interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A great many novelists have spent some portion of their energies in the business of journalism; fewer journalists have spent successful hours as novelists.

    One of the best ones of the latter sort, who was also one of the former sort, is Joseph Roth, the reverent chronicler of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who wrote between the World Wars. Familiarity breeds content, I once punned at this blog, so it’s no surprise to me to see a journalist writing about journalists– but the other product of familiarity is very much in evidence among his works.

    “The Cartel”, a short story published in 1923, concerns itself with the reportorial styles and personal appearance of several members of the profession, especially three crime/scandal reporters who seem to spend their time in the Chesterton Cafe. One considers himself like a master baker, who adds just the right decorative topping or bit of spice to his creations, out of his own larder, to delight the appetites of his readers. Another has made himself the confidante and companion of criminals: “He knew about murders that hadn’t yet happened.”The third’s great strength is his capacity to take in any information, no matter how incendiary, and keep it to himself without fail till deadline.

    “In the Chesterton Cafe, news and current events were created and blazoned out into the world.”

    “God only knows where the three of them got their fresh news from all the time. Even if there wasn’t any, they still seemed to have it.”

    They are undone when a new rival actually takes initiative and creates, with the collaboration of at least one of the principals, actual news, scooping them all in the process, to their professional undoing.

    In Roth’s late novel, “The Tale of the 1002nd Night”, reporters fare no better in the fictional form of Lazik, who trades, at two kreuzers a line, in innuendo and blind attribution, is rapaciously bribe-able, and after misapplying his acquisitive zeal to the wrong party, is dismissed from his scandal-sheet, after which he takes up a new profession: cocaine sales, for which compensation is higher than two kreuzers a line, or would be, if it weren’t for his arrest by undercover policemen.

    By contrast, Roth’s description of a brothel’s madame seems tender and at times even borders on sympathetic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, jhNY!

      I agree that the number of journalists who become great novelists isn’t enormous; two very different writing skills are involved. But a significant group have made the leap. As I mentioned in a comment elsewhere, that group includes Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Geraldine Brooks, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, and Carl Hiaasen, among others.

      Glad to see that list also includes Joseph Roth, who I continue to have plans to read. And in the “familiarity breeds content” category — I still think that phrase is brilliant! — it does make sense for a journalist writing literature to have journalist characters on occasion. Thanks for “The Cartel” and “The Tale of the 1002nd Night” examples, and for the skillful, absorbing descriptions of each!


      • Have a feeling, looking over at your list, that most, if not all, were planning to work in fiction all the while they were covering whatever beat assigned. But of course, many plan and few achieve.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That could very well be, jhNY, but I’m not sure! And it’s interesting that some writers don’t completely give up journalism after becoming established authors. Hemingway, for instance, did journalism here and there after becoming famous, and Hiaasen has never ceased being a Miami Herald columnist. Come to think of it, Steinbeck also did some journalism after achieving literary renown.


          • Journalism, once your star is set in the heavens, I would think is a very different proposition than journalism as practiced by those who never rise higher. Once you are a walking point of view– of interest most of all because it’s YOU doing the walking around– the job changes, and you as a reporter, also. But I certainly can see the attraction the job would have to such a one.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Reporters/journalists in literary fiction? I’m scratching my head. Charles Dickens wrote and published a kind of investigative report, “A Visit to Newgate Prison.” In college I read his novels but never touched much on his journalism/non-fiction.

    Winston Smith is a kind of “journalist,” toiling in Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, rewriting history.

    Television fiction? Will Mcavoy (Jeff Daniels) in HBO’s Newsroom. Check out the opening of the first episode where he responds to a college student who asks why America is the greatest country in the world. It will give you chills.

    Paddy Chayefsky’s Network? Howard Beale, the mad prophet of the airwaves?

    Pop culture: some major super-heroes in their alter-egos work for newspapers (Clark Kent and Peter Parker). I suppose at the time these characters were created the view was that newspapers as a free press were the bastions of liberty with unassailable journalistic integrity. Where would Supes aand Spidey work today?

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    • Wow ! What a brilliant time appropriate post Joseph Domino, needless to say one of my favorite show and now you posted this one I remember it so well and said to myself wow when they broadcasted this piece together with so many moments of Will Mcavoy played so brilliantly by Jeff Daniels.

      Liked by 1 person

      • bebe, your comment posted as I was writing my reply to Joe! He did write quite a comment. 🙂

        I’ve never watched “The Newsroom,” but I’m going to look for Joe’s clip on YouTube in a few minutes. As I mentioned to him, I can’t access it here.

        From what I’ve seen him in elsewhere, I think Jeff Daniels is a tremendous actor. One of the (lesser-known) movies I enjoyed him in was “Fly Away Home” with Anna Paquin. I seem to remember a TV character or two reporting on Daniels’ and Paquin’s geese-related adventures in that heartwarming film.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Dave….no notification so clicked again. Yes indeed I remember the movie ” Fly away home” so well and loved it.
          Another great post by the way…how you come up with interesting topic every week is commendable.

          Liked by 1 person

          • bebe, thanks for clicking on notifications again! I just received an email saying you did so. Sorry that WordPress somehow bumped you off. WP is light years better than HP in all things tech and in its friendliness to its bloggers and readers, but I guess no company is perfect. 😦

            Glad you’ve seen “Fly Away Home”! Such a wonderful movie. I still have it on video, which of course I can’t play anymore without a VCR. 🙂

            Last but not least, thanks for your very kind words about this column and my blog!!!

            Liked by 1 person

        • Joe and bebe, I just watched “The Newsroom” clip. Wow! That has to be about the best scene ever! The superb acting, the humor, and then that amazing, so-accurate “rant” about what America really is. Thanks so much, Joe, for posting that. I think I’ll be watching it again and again.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Joe! As I told a couple of other commenters, I realize there aren’t a LOT of media people in literature. Given the state of journalism these days, maybe they’ve been laid off (from appearing in novels). 🙂

      Excellent mention of Dickens — one of a number of novelists who were also journalists (others included Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Geraldine Brooks, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Carl Hiaasen, and many more). Also, given how many (long) novels Dickens wrote, I would think there might be a journalist or three in them in some secondary roles. But I’m drawing a blank. (I’ve read most of Dickens’ work, but that was many years ago.)

      Yes! Winston Smith IS a kind of journalist. Love that observation! Given how much Winston is forced to twist the facts, he could almost work for Fox News these days…

      Tried to watch the video, but it wouldn’t let me. I got a note on the screen saying: “Watch this video on YouTube. Playback on other websites has been disabled by the video owner.” Will try to find it on YouTube later. I also fondly remember the TV and print journalists on the “Mary Tyler Moore” and “Lou Grant” shows. And glad you mentioned the memorable “Network,” as well as Clark Kent and Peter Parker out of their Superman and Spider-Man garb.

      I share your cynicism about whether “newspapers…were the bastions of liberty with unassailable journalistic integrity.” I’ve worked for several newspapers as a reporter and columnist, and they were hardly admirable places. Some of the writers were idealistic, with plenty of integrity, but were straitjacketed in all kinds of ways by the owners, publishers, advertisers, and other “bean counters.” Maybe Clark and Spidey could start their own blogs today on the good old World Wide Web. Spidey certainly knows something about that web thing… 🙂


        • Just watched the video, bebe, and I did love it! Absolutely loved it! (I posted a comment about it a couple replies above that I was probably writing at the same time you posted your 9:13 AM comment above. 🙂 )

          By the way, I finished rereading “To Kill a Mockingbird” this weekend, and was blown away. Such a humane, tragic, wonderfully written novel — totally deserving of all the accolades it has received. I will be mentioning one aspect of the book in my next blog post this Sunday evening (Nov. 2).

          Thanks so much for being one of the people talking about Harper Lee’s novel under past columns; that spurred me to reread it!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Dave I am so glad you read that book , I have that movie in DVD , Gregory Peck became Atticus in our mind. I will write more later… is our last autumn day for a while.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thanks, bebe! Believe it or not, I have never seen the “To Kill a Mockingbird” movie. (There are SO many movies I haven’t seen. 🙂 ) I know the film is great, and I’ve read that Harper Lee loved it and was friends with Gregory Peck for the rest of his life.

              Yes, a gorgeous day here in New Jersey, too. I’ve been out already, and will go out again when I get a chance. I realize a day like this on Oct. 28 might have something to do with global warming… 😦

              Liked by 1 person

  8. For six long years Truman Capote meticulously investigated as a crime reporter/writer of literature ” In Cold Blood” with the help of Harper Lee,inspired by 30 words in the New York Times on a murder of a wealthy farmer and his family in Kansas. Also thought of All the President’s Men with Bradlee’s recent passing. If you like newspaper films,an oldie but goodie with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell is His Girl Friday a quick witted and fast talking romp from the 1940’s. She is a rarity,a newspaper woman in a male dominated newsroom,typical of that time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the great comment, Michele! I guess, in a way, Harper Lee has about one-and-a-half books to her credit, not just the iconic “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I read “In Cold Blood” many years ago, and it’s quite a journalistic/literary achievement.

      I also appreciate the mention of “All the President’s Men” and “His Girl Friday.” Yes, not many female journalists at the time of the latter film, and many of those who WERE in the profession back then were ghettoized into doing fluffy so-called “women’s news.”


      • Speaking of doing fluffy so-called “women’s news”, it brings to mind “The Help”. The fictional central character WAS one of the women back in the day who was relegated to “women’s news” when she was hired to write a Heloise-type column for the local newspaper. Since she didn’t know a single thing about helpful hints, she tapped “the help” to find out things she needed to know to write her column. That lead her to write a scathing expose of the working conditions of “The Help” in the south.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I haven’t read or seen “The Help,” Mary, so thanks for telling me something about it! I hadn’t realized there was a columnist character! Sounds a bit like how Paula Deen got some of her recipes from an African-American cook (who unfortunately didn’t get much credit for her contributions).


          • I wasn’t aware of the details surrounding Paula Deen’s scandal. Or maybe there were multiple scandals? In any case, “The Help” isn’t like that at all. This journalist was a friend to and proponent for the women she interviewed. The book is funny, sad, infuriating and depicts a south that I never knew anything about. It’s well worth reading.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thanks, Mary! My mistake — I didn’t mean to imply the situations were exactly analogous, because it does sound like “The Help” character was being very decent, while Paula Deen wasn’t so much. I don’t know a heckuva lot about the Deen scandal; I don’t follow those kinds of things very closely. But I vaguely remember her making some racially charged remarks — kind of ironic when she was helped so much by that aforementioned African-American woman.

              Given your feelings about it, I might read “The Help” at some point. My reading list is starting to feel overwhelming — but that is actually a good thing! I will never lack a highly recommended novel for years to come. 🙂


  9. I am a huge Graham Greene fan after i read his short story The Destructors ” in class, so his novel “The Quiet American” , the protagonist is a journalist covering the early French war in Vietnam. I asked this also to my students and they immediately gave me Rita Skeeter. too many actually told me this, a journalist for the Daily Prophet in the Harry Potter series.

    “The Portrait of a Lady” by Henry James, Isabel Archer’s friend was a journalist. In “Amsterdam” by Ian McEwan, the protagonist runs a tabloid newspaper or magazine, i can’t actually remember which. But in that same vein, the whole inner working of the “Millennium” series by Stieg Larsen focus on the exploits of the relationship between a writer accused and convicted of slander,
    Michael Blomkvist, and a young female computer genius with a dark and mysterious past, Lisbeth Salander.

    I also read Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News–I read that after reading “Brokeback Mountain”– in which a writer works for a daily newspaper. That novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, I think in 1993, or 1994, maybe 1995, somewhere around there.

    I am thinking I read quite a few books in which the protagonist was a “war correspondent” in some form or another. Now I’m thinking of Stephen Crane for some reason. I really have to stop thinking now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Eric, for all those great additions to this discussion! I’m not surprised that Rita Skeeter is perhaps the best-known fictional journalist among students. A little depressing in a way, but then again the “Harry Potter” novels are fantastic and Rita is a clever satirical creation who meets a rather interesting fate.

      “The Destructors” IS a terrific (and disturbing) short story; thanks for recommending it a few weeks ago! I’d like to read more of Graham Greene in novel form.

      Thanks, also, for the mentions and words about the works of Henry James, Annie Proulx, Ian McEwan (I’ve only read his compelling “Atonement”), and Stieg Larsson (I very much want to get to his “Millennium” trilogy eventually).

      When you mention war correspondents in fiction, it makes me think I’ve also read at least a novel or two with such a character. But I can’t think of one, either! I wonder if the great World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle was ever fictionalized in a novel?


      • “A little depressing in a way…” was my thought exactly, but in a humorous way I suggested to the students that they should be reading more “worthy of their ability” literature. I was drowned out by a round of boos, but only by the best of the students.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Very interesting, very funny, very sobering experience, Eric. I suppose if students read “Harry Potter” AND more challenging literature, that’s not a bad combination.

          Not sure if we discussed this before, but I thought J.K. Rowling’s “grown-up” novel “The Casual Vacancy” was pretty gripping and almost all deadly serious.


          • I read “The Casual Vacancy,” and I had mixed emotions about that. The writing style resembled a “Potter-ish” style and I think coming off the Potter series, one might think it was a letdown. But if you read it without reading her other works, you might feel it fared better.

            Liked by 1 person

            • “The Casual Vacancy” certainly was not an A+ work, but I found it to be better than I expected. It did have a “Harry Potter” style in some ways, especially when it focused on the younger characters (albeit non-wizard younger characters!). And I missed the lighter aspects of “”Harry Potter.” Rowling certainly was trying to by un-“Harry Potter” in many ways!

              But I was impressed with the way Rowling depicted nasty small-town politics (I’ve covered that type of thing myself as a newspaper reporter and later columnist). I was also impressedwith the way she depicted the harsh realities of life.


      • As Eric mentioned..I talked about the Millennium Trilogy so much in so many of your blogs a great example as well. The friendship and romance between Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander and the former worked for the Journal.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Damn dude definitely posed a bit of a stumper with this topic. When I read the title the Warren and West novels came to mind , neither of which I’m overly fond of, but then pretty much a blank. I seem to recall one or two seedy ,nefarious type Journalists in some modern British works from the last decade Barnes, Martin Amis or perhaps Ian McEwan ,not sure which but that’s it. Weird, as one would think it a topic with a lot of possibilities for a writer . Plots that dealt with current or historical affairs can seamlessly insert their characters into the action at least as observers and of course as so many great movies have relayed the ground is fertile for tough moral dilemmas Absence of Malice to name one. I’m even more embarrassed because comic strip protagonists occurred to me quite readily, Clark Kent and from a completely different universe Gary Trudeau’s version of Hunter S. Thompson ” Duke” in his Doonesbury strip, surely one of the most amoral creatures in any medium of art or literature.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Donny! As I also told Kat Lib, I realize this was a difficult one, but the next column will be easier to comment on. 🙂 I actually had this media column in mind for a couple of months, hesitated because of the not large number of fictional media people, but finally figured what the heck and posted it. As you note, it would seem there SHOULD be more novels with someone like a newspaper reporter as a character.

      “Absence of Malice” is a fascinating film — written by a former newspaper editor, according to Wikipedia.

      Speaking of newspapers, I’ve never read the novels of Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a journalist or three in them.

      Clark Kent — nice! (And Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.) Duke IS an incredibly amoral character, and a hilarious one. I bet Garry Trudeau could write an excellent novel if he put his mind to it. His “Doonesbury” comic strips, and his TV work, have genuine narratives and story arcs.


      • Don’t misunderstand Dave, I meant stumper as a compliment. I am looking forward to reading the comments from the many erudite fans you have here and learning a thing or two. I also assume you already knew Thompson hated the Duke character so much he once threatened Trudeau’s life, I am a bit upset I didn’t mention Gary on the blog post of two weeks ago as his dad was a very well respected Prime Minister of Canada .

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, Donny! And LOL on the “relationship” between Pierre Trudeau and Garry Trudeau! I’m still searching for the connection between Joni Mitchell and Dennis Mitchell (aka Dennis the Menace). Something about looking at bratty cartoon kids from both sides now…

          I had heard that Hunter S. Thompson wasn’t a fan of his Duke alter ego in “Doonesbury,” but didn’t know he had threatened the cartoonist. Wow. Do you know any more details about that?


          • Dennis grew up to be “Coyote” ,he and Joni don’t talk. Read about the Thompson Trudeau spat years ago so while I don’t recall any details I also remember it’s veracity wasn’t challenged and I seem to recall Gary issuing a funny ,bemused kind of statement.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Ha ha! (Re “Coyote.”)

              “Bemused” is a good word to describe Trudeau. I’ve met him and interviewed him a few times, and he’s kind of serene and mellow in person to go along with being incredibly witty and satirical in his writing.


  11. Let’s not forget “Anchorman,” with Will Ferrell! Oh. That was a movie. But Ron Burgundy did channel a memoire: “Let Me Off at the Top—My Class Life and Other Musings.” Something tells me that his book won’t be featured in this highly esteemed column!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Cathy, for the kind words and engaging comment! I never saw “Anchorman,” but I’ve heard a lot about it — and it IS fun to think about TV anchors, print journalists, and other media people in movies. “Broadcast News,” “All the President’s Men,” “Julie & Julia” (with its food blogger), the current “Kill the Messenger,” etc.!


  12. Hi Dave, I’ve been sitting here completely stumped as to come up with any novels that weren’t already mentioned, so I started thinking about journalists who wrote non-fiction. The best example of this is “All the President’s Men,” by Bernstein and Woodward, which was also made into a great movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. This thought led me to an author who wrote both fiction and non-fiction, Norman Mailer. The only book of his that I know I read was “The Armies of the Night,” though I know he wrote many novels as well, including “The Executioner’s Song,” which won a Pulitzer Prize. I’ve been spending the last week or so bemoaning the state of journalism these days, especially with all the fear-mongering going on., so this is a timely topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kat Lib! I’m very happy you veered into nonfiction, because there are some fascinating books by and about real journalists. “All the President’s Men” is certainly one of them. I’m also remembering a very absorbing biography of William Randolph Hearst — perhaps titled “Citizen Hearst”? — about the larger-than-life publisher with some nasty tabloid instincts. Yes, much of journalism today is “Hearstian,” and worse. 😦

      Some of Norman Mailer’s nonfiction was certainly journalistic in an opinionated, “New Journalism” sort of way.

      I loved the “All the President’s Men” movie, too! (After you mentioned that film, I’m now I’m thinking about Jason Robards’ excellent portrayal of the just-deceased editor Ben Bradlee.)

      Thanks for figuring out a way to comment; I would have missed your thoughts if you didn’t. 🙂


      • Dave, I’m still thinking about the media in novels, and I’ve yet to come up with anything, which seems odd to me. Perhaps it will come to me in a dream or something tonight:) At any rate, I finally finished both “Flight Behavior,” which was mentioned in an article on Salon over the weekend about books that are now addressing climate change. You mentioned the journalist in this book in your post. Off topic, but I also finished the book by Anne LaMotte on writing (“Bird by Bird”) which I recommend to you highly, especially since you are a writer yourself. The title derives from the writer’s father (who was a writer himself), whose 10 year-old son had three months to write a report on birds over a summer vacation, but left it until the very last day (I guess we’ve all done that) and was completely immobilized by the task in front of him. The father put his arms around the kid, and said,”Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” Which is I think good advice to anyone for any job or tasks that seem overwhelming.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, Kat Lib! I realize media people in literature is a topic that has fewer novels to choose from than usual. My next topic will not have that problem!

          As for your comment’s second line, maybe we can change the famous phrase “in dreams begin responsibilities” to “in dreams begin (reading) possibilities.” 🙂

          I’m glad “Flight Behavior” got a mention in Salon!

          “Bird by Bird” is now on my list. As I think I mentioned to you before, I’ve never read Anne Lamott, and it’s time I did so! Thanks for the intriguing description of her book — and the advice in it that would do Ann Landers or “Dear Abby ” proud. 🙂


          • One caveat is that she has written books about religion, which interests me not, but she has written one novel that I found somewhat good, but not great (“Rosie”)., yet I’m looking forward to reading the book about her son’s first year, which also deals with her best friend’s death from breast cancer.

            Liked by 1 person

            • OK, I just realized that in two comments to you I made the mistake of a comma after a period. Color my face red! Of course, I also just had a fruit fly fly up my nose! )

              Liked by 1 person

            • First of all, sorry I referred to “Bird by Bird” as a novel before; I fixed that. Zoning out!

              Like you, I’m not a big fan of reading about religion, though sometimes nonfiction or fiction books on that topic have other compensating elements.

              One of the most boring novels I’ve read during the past couple of years was Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead,” featuring a minister. How it won the Pulitzer Prize I don’t know!


                • Perhaps!! I do know that I often over-punctuate or not. I do like my commas and hyphens!. One of my favorite books on grammar is “Eats,
                  Shoots and Leaves” by Lynne Truss.

                  That’s OK, I’m glad to know that you or I didn’t care for “Gilead” either. Both my sister and I tried it, but we didn’t finish it. We were at B&N the other day, and both were talking about how well-reviewed “Lila” was but we both looked at each other and neither of us felt compelled to buy it.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • I love the title of that grammar book, Kat Lib, though I’ve never read it.

                    Unlike you and your sister’s wise decision to abandon “Gilead,” I stupidly finished the thing. 😦 Luckily, the novel was fairly short and didn’t waste TOO much of my time.

                    Maybe the Pulitzer judges felt “Gilead” was wonderfully understated or something, rather than boring. I disagree!

                    I have no interest in “Lila,” either.


                    • One good thing is that my sister and I don’t agree on every book, or people would think we were spawned at birth. She doesn’t like any book that doesn’t have a sympathetic character while I sometimes enjoy a book like “Gone Girl.”
                      There have been several times when she has just turned books over to me, including the above, and a much loved book by me,” We Need to Talk about Kevin,” by Lionel Shriver. And as we read more and more about kids who commit horrible crimes, it seems to be somewhat important what makes these kids tic. Sorry, I didn’t mean to go all political on you, but this is something we must address.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Ha ha! Yes, it would be unusual if even siblings agreed on all books!

                      I’m with you on sympathetic characters, Kat Lib. If it’s good enough, I can like a book that mostly contains unlikable characters. Nabokov’s “Pale Fire” would be one example of that.

                      I agree that we need to try to understand the roots of horrible things — whether it involves gun-wielding kids, adult terrorists, and so on. Then there’s state terrorism, but that’s another discussion…


  13. Howdy, Dave!

    — What are some of your favorite literary works featuring media people in big or small roles? —

    “In those long-ago days, I was very young and lived with my grandparents in a villa with white walls in the Calle Ocharán, in Miraflores. I was studying at the University of San Marcos, law, as I remember, resigned to earning myself a living later on by practicing a liberal profession, although deep down what I really wanted was to become a writer someday. I had a job with a pompous-sounding title, a modest salary, duties as a plagiarist, and flexible working hours: News Director of Radio Panamericana.” So begins Mario Vargas Llosa’s “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.” It may or may not be the funniest book on media people in the American language, but, let’s be fair, the author wrote it in Spanish.

    Meanwhile, I have enjoyed reading about a host of other media types in novels such as Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” (Jake Barnes), E. Annie Proulx’s “The Shipping News” (Quoyle) and Tom Rachman’s “The Imperfectionists” (almost everybody).

    Of course, none of them is likely to have the staying power of Kent Brockman, the chronicler of the quotidian on “The Simpsons.”

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, J.J., for yet another wonderfully expressed comment — including the mentions of several fictional journalists who weren’t on my radar.

      I did read one of the novels you mentioned, “The Sun Also Rises,” but long enough ago where I forgot Jake Barnes was a journalist — as Ernest Hemingway himself was during some periods of his life.

      Fantastic Mario Vargas Llosa excerpt!

      As for “The Simpsons,” that show has such longevity that probably dozens of professions have been represented over the years by its yellow-skinned characters.

      In closing, I will resist the urge to call Kent Brockman a “yellow journalist”… 🙂


      • — In closing, I will resist the urge to call Kent Brockman a “yellow journalist” —

        Good one, Dave! Somewhere, Richard F. Outcault’s in stitches . . .

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, J.J.! And you certainly know the origins of the term “yellow journalism”!

          As I imagine you also know, R.F. Outcault not only created the “Hogan’s Alley” cartoon featuring The Yellow Kid, but went on to create the “Buster Brown” comic — from which a shoe company would purchase naming rights. Those two Outcault characters certainly shared having a color motif…


  14. I though almost immediately of the ABC character Richard Castle. A fictitious writer who has had real books published. In the show he’s gets to follow around a female detective and help her solve crimes. The Nikki Heat series of books by Castle stars a writer named Jameson Rook, who follows Heat, a NY detective, as she solves crimes.

    Haven’t read the novels yet but the show is great.

    You other examples are great and a reminder of couple of books I missed out on in high school. One of these days I will read “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, GL!

      Until I saw your comment, I had been unaware of the Richard Castle phenomenon. (Just read more about it on Wikipedia — VERY interesting.) I guess I’m not much of a TV watcher, which of course means I miss out on bad stuff as well as good stuff. 🙂

      As I mentioned to Mary Harris in this comments area, I just reread “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the first time in many years, and it deserves its huge respect and popularity.


      • I’m not much of a TV person either. It was pure chance that I caught “Castle” and got hooked. Normally I’m on PBS as background to what every else I’m doing.

        I’ll be looking at “To Kill a Mockingbird” soon on my reading list. It is in ebook format so the library should have it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I hear you, GL. Like you, I’ve occasionally gotten hooked on a particular show — the various “Star Trek” series, for instance. Less so in recent years. As you know, TV just takes away too much (uninterrupted) reading time. 🙂

          If you read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” please let me know what you think of it!


  15. “An honorable mention in this post is the real-life Nellie Bly, the famous journalist with a literary connection: She tried to circle the globe faster than the fictional Phileas Fogg did in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, and finished her 1889-90 trip in just over 72 days.”

    That was an amazing feat back then. Now, with all of the countries generally saying no, almost all the time, like China and Russia, it is almost impossible to do it nowadays unless one goes so low that the only Continent one passes over is Australia or Antarctica.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, an absolutely incredible feat in that pre-flight, (mostly) pre-car era.

      Interesting that technological advances make going around the world relatively easy today, yet geopolitical realities make it hard. Great observation, Eric!


  16. Of course, there’s YOU! You are an outstanding journalist and appear in your very own book as the central character. Your book is poignant and compelling, a great read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the kind words, Susan, and for mentioning “Laura” and its “interesting” columnist character! I’ve somehow never gotten to any version of “Laura,” but just put Vera Caspary’s novel on my to-read list after seeing your great comment.


  17. I wouldn’t have thought of Henrietta Stackpole again if you hadn’t brought her to my attention. She is indeed a forerunner of the female journalists that began to proliferate throughout the 20th century. Since ‘The Portrait of a Lady’ is fresher in your mind you could tell me if Henrietta wasn’t a little bit of a gossip? I recall her being that way in Jane Campion’s 1996 (?) adaptation of the novel with Mary-Louise Parker as Henrietta, Nicole Kidman as Isabel Archer, John Malkovich as Osmond and Barbara Hershey as Madame Merle (a few years later Barbara played Daniel Deronda’s mother in that BBC production I was telling you about). I too thought about Jack Burden in ‘All the King’s Men’ who really does carry the burden of a conscience in how to view Willie Stark. Not really a reporter, but kind of a fraternal occupation is the scholar/critical biographer, the ‘publishing scoundrel’ of James’ outstanding novella ‘The Aspern Papers.’ Read this for a depiction of a human vulture preying on the private life of a long dead poet and the very much alive woman that knew him. If I think of any more journalists, yellow or some other color, I will get back to you. Another fascinating post, Dave!

    Liked by 1 person

    • bobess48, thanks for the excellent comment and kind words — and for encouraging me to read more of Henry James! It has been time VERY well spent.

      Henrietta Stackpole was indeed a fascinating character — and, yes, she did like to talk about other people. And give advice, whether solicited or unsolicited. 🙂

      And, yes, she was a forerunner. I wonder how many female journalists were in fiction before Henry James’ 1881 novel? Couldn’t have been many.

      Quite a cast in (and director of) the movie adaptation of “The Portrait of a Lady”! And Barbara Hershey was in screen versions of two GREAT novels. As we’ve discussed, “Daniel Deronda” is a superb book.

      I hope to get to “The Aspern Papers” as I read more Henry James this fall and beyond.


      • I just recalled another of James’ novels, the pretty much forgotten ‘The Reverberator’. Here’s a brief summary of it from Wikipedia:

        ;George Flack is the Paris correspondent for an American scandal sheet called The Reverberator. Francie Dosson, a pretty but not always tactful American girl, confides to Flack some gossip about the Proberts, the Frenchified (but originally American) family of her fiancée, Gaston Probert.

        Predictably to everybody except Francie, the nasty gossip winds up in The Reverberator, much to the horror of the stuffy Proberts. Francie makes no attempt to hide her role in giving Flack the juicy details. Gaston is initially dismayed by his fiancée’s indiscretions. But with the somewhat surprising support of his sister Suzanne, he decides to accept Francie, who never tries to shift the blame to Flack. Gaston stands up to the outraged members of his family and marries his fiancée.’

        I had thought the female character in it was a journalist herself but she provides gossip to a ‘National Enquirer’ type. James obviously had little regard for the lack of integrity that these purveyors of scandal sheets exhibited. If he thought that was bad I wonder what he would think if he were suddenly thrust forward into our current world to see what many Americans consider journalism now.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That is indeed a lesser-known Henry James novel, bobess48, but it seems quite interesting. And Francie sounds very honest, which is more than one can say about a couple of underhanded characters who make life difficult for Isabel Archer in “The Portrait of a Lady”!

          It WOULD be something for James to see what much of the media was like today. For one thing, some of the more tabloid-y outlets would probably be writing about his sexuality, his never marrying, his giving up his American citizenship (late in life), and so on.


          • As I mentioned last week, I picked up a copy of James’ The Wings of the Dove a short while ago. Yesterday I began to read it, to find, happily, that there is in this novel a character, though how important a character he will be I don’t yet know, “Merton Densher, who passed the best hours of each night at the office of his newspaper…”

            Strange how your column anticipated what I happened to choose to read next. Spooky even, and so, downright seasonal!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Ha! Spooky indeed, jhNY! 🙂

              Interesting that Henry James had more than one newspaper character in his canon. Might have had something to do with James having done some newspaper and magazine writing himself — including literary reviews, of course.

              As I might have mentioned before, “The Wings of the Dove” is a James novel I want to eventually read. And then there’s his scary tale of an exploited entry-level worker: “Intern of the Screw.” (Okay, that wordplay was painfully bad…)


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