Posted by: mbtrotter | January 17, 2011

Superheroes and journalists need each other.

Think about it. If superheroes didn’t have journalists, they’d be stuck busting low-level criminals or performing their own lengthy investigations, and without someone to publicize their deeds, they’d never get anywhere.

If journalists didn’t have superheroes, they’d be stuck covering run-of-the-mill cops beats, and without someone to act on their investigative pieces, nothing would ever get done. Supervillains would chuckle at the stories journalists put out about them, secure in knowing that no matter how accurate they were, nobody would do anything to stop their (complex web of corruption in city government/plan to take over the world/various types of mass-effect rays).

So really, it came as no surprise when NBC’s new caped vigilante program, The Cape, was full of portrayals of journalists. In an astute show of cultural awareness, however, the hero’s journalistic counterpoint is a blogger.

Investigative blogger Orwell has been right about a few corrupt officials already, it seems, so once characters see someone on the list, they believe it. (And the goatee is clearly not helping that guy. It’s a superhero show — goatee means bad guy!)

Of course, since this is a blogger involved, Orwell is good with technology. As in, Orwell can hack main character Vince Faraday’s computer in order to show him an impressive multimedia presentation on corruption in Palm City. I mean, not just any schlub with Internet access can start a blog.

So Orwell’s tech-savvy and had some good information. Journalist, right? Well … Orwell pretty easily crosses the line from reporting to advocacy, then crosses the line from advocacy to action. That’s a step further than most journalists are comfortable with.

(Surprise! Orwell’s a hot female. Were you expecting that?)

From watching the first two hours of the series, I’m stuck with the impression that Orwell will be much more of a sidekick to The Cape than she’ll be a journalist. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; if you compare her role to journalists’, both are about discovering information that needs to be known and may impact actions taken by those who can influence the events.

But the kind of blogger Orwell is, is the kind of blogger that makes journalists lose sleep at night. They’re less tied to journalism ethics and traditions, and they’re taking traditional news outlets’ audiences. And more and more people are noticing the influence bloggers can have.

See the look on the maitre d’s face? He knows what’s up. A blogger with that much reach can have a real impact on business with a single review, so it’s a good idea to serve them.

In 1999, traditional food critics still had that kind of pull, as portrayed in The Simpsons episode “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?” (Add that to the queue of Simpsons-related posts I need to write.) Over the years between then and now, food and movie critics have lost audience to or taken refuge on the Internet. (Ironically, that links to the blog of renowned movie critic Roger Ebert.)

What I — and Tim McGuire, I’m sure — want to know is how Orwell is making money off her blog. I didn’t see any ads on it. Nobody mentioned a paid subscription. But she’s making enough money to have a couple fancy cars and an incredible home office setup. How many people do you know with a Minority Report–style touch-screen computer paid for from his or her blog income? Better question: How many people do you know with blog income?

Bonus observations from The Cape!

Who is and isn’t a journalist was the main issue from the show, but there’s far more than that to take a look at.

Why are old media so common in The Capewith all the technology available?

Granted, Max and The Cape don’t have the tech Orwell does, but over-the-air TV and newspaper clippings? Somebody’s got to have an unsecured wireless network around their hideouts. Everybody else is reading newspapers or getting their news from TV, it would seem.

Speaking of TV news, here are the anchors on the show, in order of appearance.

The male anchor is Groundlings alumnus David Jahn, who’s acted in many TV and film roles. The female anchor struck me as familiar from living in the nation’s No. 2 TV market up until seven months ago.

She’s KTLA’s Wendy Burch, a morning news anchor who has also worked at the L.A. ABC affiliate. Hey, it’s an example of a journalist selling out, something I’ve blogged about before. At this point, Burch is 11 TV or film appearances away from taking Hal Fishman’s record as KTLA reporter/anchor who played a journalist the most.

Besides an actual anchor playing an anchor, The Cape had a nice scene where a bunch of (presumably) extras formed a pretty convincing swarm of journalists waiting outside Palm City’s city hall to ask billionaire Peter Fleming about his takeover and privatization of the police department.

Well, convincing except for the fact you could tell none of them was actually a journalist. No microphones in Fleming’s face? Not a notepad among them? Men in suits holding cameras? Little to no jostling for position and people happy to be at the subject’s back? And not one satellite truck!

I leave you with a clip of aerial coverage of a police pursuit. Aside from getting a closeup on the suspect you never could from a helicopter, it’s pretty typical, from the helicopter presumably getting too close at times to the station not having the good sense to cut away when the gas tank car Faraday took refuge under started being hit by heavy automatic rifle fire. Enjoy!

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 liked how I learned how Wendy sold out.

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