Tuesday, June 7, 2011

'Murphy Brown': Still My Idol, Journalistic or Otherwise...

I can't help but wonder what Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) would think of the "journalists" of today, myself included. After all, I certainly don't have a "background" in journalism. At least not in the traditional sense. I don't cover that up or deny it in any way. When I started blogging, it was a hobby, and when I start contributing to various other sites, it was an attempt to take what I love most about this industry and bring it to other people. But my background is in production. I think it gives me a unique perspective when I am reviewing other television, but it certainly doesn't help with the ethics or procedures involved with handling sources and sensitive material. All of that had to be learned as I went, with the help of my editors and some good ole fashioned common sense.


The truth is, Murphy Brown was ahead of its time, not only as a sitcom for dealing with the tough issues such as single motherhood, alcoholism, and sexual politics in the workplace, but also in the way it looked at the changing world of television and journalism within its subject matter. Now it seems commonplace that reality personalities and semi-famous individuals get offered hosting and interview gigs on the drop of a hat, but back then? Back then it was a big deal.

Just a decade or so ago it wasn't commonplace to have just anyone sitting behind that anchor desk, so more than two decades ago, when Murphy Brown was just premiering, it really was the tip of the iceberg. The show spoke out about the changes in many ways before they were even being made. It saw what was to come; it looked into the future of television journalism, and it voiced concerns. The pilot of Murphy Brown was one that was dripping with developments that were seemingly unheard of at the time. Not only was its protagonist extremely flawed, but so was the system in which she existed. And for once, here was someone who wasn't going to sit back, smile pretty, and just roll with it. She may not have always played well with others; she may have had a pretty strong wall built around her; but she certainly stood up for what she believed in and inspired others to do the same. Hell, she is still inspiring us to do the same!

But moreover, back then it wasn't commonplace to have lighter, fluffier, human interest or pop culture pieces in every broadcast, leading every broadcast. And it certainly wasn't common for big network news programs to make deals with their guests to avoid some of the harder hitting questions in order to ensure a bigger deal gets to go through. But unfortunately it was becoming common. Now it seems to run rampant. Everyone's just in it to make a (million) buck(s) off the interviews-- from abusing the word "exclusive," to writing books out of hour or two-hour long sit-downs, to then being considered an "expert" on the subject and giving interviews of his or her own.

I didn't know, when I first started watching Murphy Brown in the late eighties, that I would someday end up in this line of work. I didn't have any desire then, nor do I now, to infiltrate the world of hard-hitting news, on-camera or in print. In that way, I'm actually quite thrilled on a personal level that what was once considered fluff is now regular fodder. I much prefer that kind of lighter fare in my work because it keeps me in a happy (and entertained) little bubble. I'm not ignoring the world around me, with all of its terrible crimes and wars and natural disasters, but I am not getting stuck in the negativity, either. But I did know, if not immediately than at least by the end of the show's run, that I planned to work in the television business someday (hopefully soon). And the lessons I took away from Murphy crossed the threshold of the office.

Murphy may have been a reluctant role model and mentor to her younger, perkier on-air counterpart, Corky, but something tells me she would be secretly smiling to know how many others she has equally taught in the real world, even if she did so without even trying. To me, that is what makes her as a character, and the show in general, so able to stand the test of time: they had wisdom to offer but they never did it in a preachy or forced way. Times may have changed, and every cog in the wheel may have to adapt over the years, but the core fundamentals of what really matters, not only on the job but also in one's work ethic in general, will never need updating!

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