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Thinking about Journalism with Superman
Unformatted Document Text:  Thinking about Journalism with Superman 14 champion of the weak and the oppressed,‟ but in a profounder sense, he is also the champion of law and order.” 79 Mainstream journalism has been similarly criticized. As early as 1922, Walter Lippmann famously compared the press to “the beam of a searchlight that moves restlessly about, bringing one episode and then another out of darkness into vision. [People] cannot do the work of the world by this light alone. They cannot govern society by episodes, incidents, and eruptions.” 80 More recently, scholars have charged that such “episodic framing” in the news decontextualizes events and prompts citizens to attribute social problems to individual incompetence or wrongdoing as opposed to broader structural failings, just as Superman limits himself to flying from one episode of personal villainy to another. 81 Likewise, journalism‟s reliance on quoting official sources allows those in power to define political reality and helps maintain the existing social order, just as Superman‟s good civic deeds ultimately prop up existing institutions regardless of how politically just or unjust they may be at their cores. 82 Superman and the “American Way” As previously noted, the “American way” was not originally listed alongside truth and justice as the things for which Superman battled the most. It first appeared in the introduction to the Superman radio series for a couple of years during World War II, but then was dropped. The first of the live action movie serials of 1948 actually featured Clark Kent‟s adoptive father urging his son to use his powers “in the interests of truth, tolerance, and justice.” 83 That was in line with the radio series‟ 1946 depictions of Clark and the Daily Planet fighting a Klan-like group that violently opposed a Chinese American youth being on the “Unity House” baseball team. “Intolerance is a filthy weed,” Clark declared in one episode. “The only way you can get rid of it is by hunting out the roots and pulling them out of the ground!” After the villains were finally

Authors: Ehrlich, Matthew.
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Thinking about Journalism with Superman 14 
 
 
champion of the weak and the oppressed,‟ but in a profounder sense, he is also the champion of 
law and order.”
79
 
 
Mainstream journalism has been similarly criticized. As early as 1922, Walter Lippmann 
famously compared the press to “the beam of a searchlight that moves restlessly about, bringing 
one episode and then another out of darkness into vision. [People] cannot do the work of the 
world by this light alone. They cannot govern society by episodes, incidents, and eruptions.”
80
 
More recently, scholars have charged that such “episodic framing” in the news decontextualizes 
events and prompts citizens to attribute social problems to individual incompetence or 
wrongdoing as opposed to broader structural failings, just as Superman limits himself to flying 
from one episode of personal villainy to another.
81
 Likewise, journalism‟s reliance on quoting 
official sources allows those in power to define political reality and helps maintain the existing 
social order, just as Superman‟s good civic deeds ultimately prop up existing institutions 
regardless of how politically just or unjust they may be at their cores.
82
 
Superman and the “American Way” 
 
As previously noted, the “American way” was not originally listed alongside truth and 
justice as the things for which Superman battled the most. It first appeared in the introduction to 
the Superman radio series for a couple of years during World War II, but then was dropped. The 
first of the live action movie serials of 1948 actually featured Clark Kent‟s adoptive father urging 
his son to use his powers “in the interests of truth, tolerance, and justice.”
83
 That was in line with 
the radio series‟ 1946 depictions of Clark and the Daily Planet fighting a Klan-like group that 
violently opposed a Chinese American youth being on the “Unity House” baseball team. 
“Intolerance is a filthy weed,” Clark declared in one episode. “The only way you can get rid of it 
is by hunting out the roots and pulling them out of the ground!” After the villains were finally 


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