Posted by: mbtrotter | September 21, 2010

Redemption is fleeting.

No journalist worth his salt ignores a conclusion, so it’s only fitting I include the season finale of Covert Affairs in the Liza Hearn study. (That and this is the one-week lull between summer series and fall premieres.)

Over the course of the show’s first season, the character developed along the typical trajectory of public opinion regarding journalists. When journalists are uncovering government wrongdoings and the like, they’re our heroes, and we root for them in the face of stern, bureaucratic opposition. But when they start acting unethically to get information or behave arrogantly, our view of them changes. Suddenly, the journalists we admired not so long ago are villains, worthy only of our contempt.

O, journalist, fear not! There is a way back to the public’s good graces. (And obviously Liza found it; otherwise, this post would be pointless.)

So how can the arrogant, unethical, sleaze ball (sleaze-ball? sleazeball?) reporter be seen as honorable again? Normal human behavior is key.

Would you look at that? Even though she’s an “overzealous reporter hell-bent” on uncovering government secrecy, Liza redeems herself by responding to basic humanity. Auggie apologizes — though most viewers would agree she needs to offer one just as much — and she agrees to trust him and delay publishing her story.

Now, anyone who is familiar with journalists knows that asking them to delay publication is tantamount to telling Officer Jack Traven to stop the bus. There had better be a damn good reason.

Liza’s faith in Auggie ends up costing her, however, when it comes to light Arthur Campbell lied to Auggie to keep the story from coming out. The story was about Arthur, not about any secret CIA operations.

It seems to be the end of Auggie and Liza’s relationship, as they return each other’s things. But hold on. That’s not all.

(Background for those not following the show: The guy in the car is Henry Wilcox, the “retired” director of clandestine services. Arthur has his job now, and they don’t quite get along.)

There are two ways to see that exchange between Liza and Henry.

The viewer’s reaction

Are you KIDDING me?! I can’t believe she’s been sneaking around with Henry Wilcox as her source the entire time! She’s trying to take down Arthur just for some award? Ugh! I hate her so much!

The journalist’s reaction

She has done a really good job cultivating Arthur’s enemy as a source. Although he is using her to some degree we don’t yet know, the value of the information she’s getting makes it OK. And she’s gunning for a Pulitzer. I wish my job worked that way.

For journalists, a good reputation can be fleeting. One minute they’re in good standing with the public, the next they’re scum doing anything for information and prestige. There are ways journalists can redeem their reputation, but the moment they show any professional drive or a trait with even a faint whiff of impropriety, it’s back to being hated.

And what’s more interesting is journalists’ peers may admire them while the public can’t stand them.

All video in this post is the copyrighted material of NBC Universal and was purchased by the author for not-for-profit use.



  1. I did not find her actions more or less human than some of the other characters. For example Auggie acted slutty and lied when he was sleeping with Liza. Everyweek Anne has to deceive someone in the name of national security as well. Why be so hard on Liza for the same actions? She is just trying to get her job accomplished, same as Anne.

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