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Thinking about Journalism with Superman
Unformatted Document Text:  Thinking about Journalism with Superman 7 pursued another line of work close to where the action was, perhaps in law enforcement or as a paramedic. Still, to do so would be to sacrifice a unique advantage—a journalist is the perfect disguise precisely because it seems so inconspicuous and uninvolved. At the time of Superman‟s creation, what James Carey labeled as the “professional communicator” was well established not only in journalism but also in popular culture. 37 Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster said they were strongly influenced by Hollywood movies in which the big-city reporter was a familiar figure. 38 Such characters were in turn partly inspired by the journalists in the 1928 Broadway play The Front Page. Playwrights Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur based it on their memories of being young Chicago reporters who were well versed in observing urban mayhem, an example of which Hecht related in his autobiography: “A man lay on his back in Barney Grogan‟s saloon with a knife sticking out of his belly, and I made notes.” 39 Such sardonic detachment was common among the first generation of professional reporters, who according to Carey would evolve into “a relatively passive link in a communication chain [recording] the passing scene for audiences.” 40 Critical scholars have charged that the occupational code of objectivity that eventually became the norm and that relied upon quoting official sources and not taking sides did little to reduce journalistic passivity. 41 “Journalists wear disguises, and one of them is the disguise of objectivity,” two journalism professors and former reporters have written. “This is fiction. All good journalists have agendas.” 42 For Superman in his quest not to call attention to his alter ego, being a “meek” and “mild-mannered” reporter with no apparent agenda is ideal. 43 It should be noted that Clark Kent has not always been the bumbling type as epitomized by Christopher Reeve in the first of his Superman movies (a type that Jules Feiffer has argued was a put-on to begin with, with Clark representing “Superman‟s opinion of the rest of us, a

Authors: Ehrlich, Matthew.
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Thinking about Journalism with Superman 7 
 
 
pursued another line of work close to where the action was, perhaps in law enforcement or as a 
paramedic. Still, to do so would be to sacrifice a unique advantage—a journalist is the perfect 
disguise precisely because it seems so inconspicuous and uninvolved.  
At the time of Superman‟s creation, what James Carey labeled as the “professional 
communicator” was well established not only in journalism but also in popular culture.
37
 Jerry 
Siegel and Joe Shuster said they were strongly influenced by Hollywood movies in which the 
big-city reporter was a familiar figure.
38
 Such characters were in turn partly inspired by the 
journalists in the 1928 Broadway play The Front Page. Playwrights Ben Hecht and Charles 
MacArthur based it on their memories of being young Chicago reporters who were well versed 
in observing urban mayhem, an example of which Hecht related in his autobiography: “A man 
lay on his back in Barney Grogan‟s saloon with a knife sticking out of his belly, and I made 
notes.”
39
 Such sardonic detachment was common among the first generation of professional 
reporters, who according to Carey would evolve into “a relatively passive link in a 
communication chain [recording] the passing scene for audiences.”
40
 Critical scholars have 
charged that the occupational code of objectivity that eventually became the norm and that relied 
upon quoting official sources and not taking sides did little to reduce journalistic passivity.
41
 
“Journalists wear disguises, and one of them is the disguise of objectivity,” two journalism 
professors and former reporters have written. “This is fiction. All good journalists have 
agendas.”
42
 For Superman in his quest not to call attention to his alter ego, being a “meek” and 
“mild-mannered” reporter with no apparent agenda is ideal.
43
 
It should be noted that Clark Kent has not always been the bumbling type as epitomized 
by Christopher Reeve in the first of his Superman movies (a type that Jules Feiffer has argued 
was a put-on to begin with, with Clark representing “Superman‟s opinion of the rest of us, a 


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