All the President's Men -- the movie -- did a bad thing to journalism: it dumbed down and ego-ed up the profession.
It was the single worst thing to ever happen to that industry. It was a slow poison, but one that did the job.
There were other fictionalized movies about journalism before, but this was The One that planted the worst seed in the collective mind.
Because it added theatre and entrenched the idea of narrative.
Not facts, but narrative, and a specific one where journalists thought they were part of the story.
No, you're not. You find facts, There is no story.
You cannot impose a narrative where you are embedded in there because the second you do, then you must be scrutinized with the same intensity as the newsmakers you are covering.
But theatre is a toxic element that has become standard in news reports: the hook to lure readers in.
That means the story must have characters, not people.
But when you artificially impose a narrative on to reality, reality shrugs, and the narrative breaks.
It is the reason journalism has lost its potency over time: when you realize that the narrative doesn't align, then you lose faith in the storyteller.
Journalism has relied on Patriarchal narrative for decades, and now they have mistaken that narrative for truth, which is traumatic enough, but when you interject yourself into a story where you have no business being in and that narrative is rejected, you completely lose every sense of reality.
The late Toronto mayor Rob Ford is a case in point. He was a wildly popularly mayor whose core was in the suburbs, but he had demons, including that whole smoking crack with gang members in front of a working camera problem.
He stayed mayor, and if he didn't die of cancer, he would have easily won a second term.
Because very few people actually cared. They saw how he behaved when they voted him into that office the first time.
But the Toronto Star was determined to bring him down in lockstep with the rest of city council.
They failed, and a few years later, his older brother Doug managed to become leader of the provincial Conservative party even though he was the long shot.
The paper wouldn't have even discovered Ford's crack and gangs secret, but a gang banger took pity upon those blockheads and took the initiative to call a female journalist to pretty much draw a diagram.
There was no cultivating sources or turning over rocks. They got the scoop through passive means.
And then nothing happened. No charges against the mayor. No laws were changed.
In other words, nothing actually happened except Rob Ford became a bad boy rock star on American television. He benefitted from the coverage that humanized him: if he could do all of that for his constituents while stoned, then, hey, he had have been a great guy.
Even when the late night talk shows were making fun of him with a nudge and a wink. He failed upwards.
This was one of the most inept episodes in Canadian journalism. The paper still lost readers. They still had to fire people. They embarked on a campaign for the government to give them free money to survive.
Try as they might, the Star could not make their narrative stick. What should have brought down their local Richard Nixon didn't, and the only big break came from the pity of the criminal element who probably were impatiently waiting for a reporter to figure things out and show up at their doorstep, but didn't actually have the intelligence to put two and two together.
And they are still as oblivious as ever.
They do not get that they were not part of the "story." They had no idea that it is all about Rob Ford, even now.
So when Hollywood decided to make a movie about that rule-breaker Rob Ford, it was pretty much Rob Ford and others. As in, no one else matters but the Bad Boy Great Man.
They even hired a far handsomer actor to play Ford. He is now officially a Legend.
And one of the female reporters who covered Ford's antics, is all upset and throwing a public temper tantrum because a male actor is playing a reporter who is after the naughty mayor.
Oh, Robyn Doolittle, get over yourself.
It isn't about you. It never was. You didn't catch him, but you tried to hitch your ride on his star. For all you know, he told them to call you and wanted a confession by proxy.
You'll never know because you didn't catch him even with that huge net a gangbanger gave you -- and you yourself admitted you weren't even standing when he spoon-fed you. I wonder how hard they were laughing reading your drivel before that point in time.
The Rob Ford story isn't about journalists because they were bumbling narcissists hoping they'd be immortalized like Bernstein and Woodward. It wasn't going to happen.
Because it is a generic role. The Bad Boy got away. They're making a movie about him, but not you.
Because who really cares about the journalists? It could be a man, woman, or a paper cut-out of an alien, no one actually cares because the anti-hero of this dread tale isn't the no-name journalists who couldn't stop Ford Nation from rising.
But the flawed Great Man who got away.
Because journalists are all about theatre, but have no real sense of what it is truly all about.
Hollywood knows theatre. They sized up the story, and saw the only person who actually counted.
And it wasn't the journalist.
Ford Nation is rising, while the Star -- like the rest of journalism -- crashed and burned.
Because the journalist doesn't matter in a movie.
And no longer does journalism in the real world...