If not for Eric Alterman’s smart new Columbia Journalism Review piece, “The Girl Who Loved Journalists,” I might have been too ashamed to admit that as I watched David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (as with the three previous Swedish film adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy), I spent an inordinate amount of time marveling at the research skills of the “Girl,” Lisbeth Salander, and the somewhat peripheral issues of journalism that are addressed in the movie.
As Salander unraveled murders in no time flat, I thought back to how long it took me to do the research to expose long-secret massacres and other mass killings of civilians or the number of secret U.S. drone bases or how the Pentagon arms Mid-East despots and sighed more than once.
But it seems I’m not alone in focusing on the journalism. As Alterman astutely observes:
The trilogy’s plot… frequently turns on matters of journalistic propriety of the kind that are rarely discussed outside badly lit newsroom cafeterias and gloomy university seminar rooms. We see Mikael and Erica [Berger, Blomkvist’s lover, best friend, and editor] struggle with love and danger, but also with questions of proper sourcing in a magazine article versus a book, a little magazine versus a powerful (and compromised) newspaper. We see the drudgery of research, of interviewing sources, and building a story one detail at a time; of trying to figure out who’s lying and why, how to publish what one knows without giving away what one doesn’t, and then how to manipulate the numbskullery of television to build the biggest echo chamber possible for one’s work.
Alterman’s piece is filled with other intelligent observations about the power of money in journalism and how most of us who report don’t have much of it. I could go on, but you’d be better off reading the whole article here.