The Independent carries a report about recent films with a journalism theme. Prominently featured is a new film written, directed by and starring Ricky Gervais who is still struggling to repeat his early satirical success with the BBC TV series The Office. This new film, called Special Correspondents, involves characters who are neither the “scoundrels nor worthy truth-hungry heroes” that typify journalists in films but
is notable for taking the proverbial out of both stereotypes while following, rather less adroitly, in the satirical footsteps of Evelyn Waugh’s 1938 novel Scoop. Like William “the wrong” Boot, Waugh’s society journalist hero who is accidentally sent to report from the frontline of war in the fictional Ishmaelia, Bonneville [the journalist, played by Eric Bana] finds himself filing made up reports about a civil war in Ecuador, eventually staging his own kidnap along with his poor hapless radio technician Ian Finch (Gervais) — only for their fictitious broadcasts to be repeated around the globe, sparking a manhunt for a made up rebel leader and, eventually, for the utter rubbish they’ve come out with to somehow, bafflingly, become the truth.
Gervais’ film is compared to this year’s earlier critical failure, Tina Fey’s feature entitled Whiskey Tango Foxtrot which
has been mocked online as like Zero Dark 30 Rock for its jarringly contradictory failure to do either a complete MASH or a Hurt Locker.
The Independent’s reporter, Maltilda Battersby, criticises both films for failing to face the real crisis in journalism today–the fact that such correspondents as they depict would be unlikely to find an employer, like Waugh’s Lord Copper, willing or able to finance the sort of foreign journalistic mission they undertake.
Battersby’s description of Waugh’s character William Boot as a “society journalist” makes one wonder how carefully she read the novel. Perhaps, in yet another case of mistaken identity, she too has confused William (who writes of questing voles and plashy fens) with the more “fashionable” John Courteney Boot, beloved of the denizens of London society such as Margot Metroland and Julia Stitch and the “right Boot” to cover the war in Ishmaelia.