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Why the movies turn journalists into action heroes

It’s a funny contradiction that us journalists aren’t often top of the public’s pops in real life, but are almost always heroes on the big screen.

Paddy Considine, plays a Guardian journalist in The Bourne Ultimatum, the latest in a long line of noble scribes who risk life, limb and a P45 in pursuit of the truth.

Well actually, Paddy’s character’s a bit wimpy, but that’s broadsheet types for you. Good with compound adjectives, useless in a fight.

But look at the examples in Almost Famous, All The President’s Men, Citizen Kane. Even Superman does shifts at The Daily Planet.

In TV’s State of Play, journalists looked like John Simm and Kelly Macdonald and were often in peril, but spookily free of deadlines.

Maybe because journalism is essentially a sedentary job, movies have to junk realism and turn reporters into action men and women.

A pallid person tapping away at a PC, noshing on a BLT sandwich and occasionally asking “What’s another word for ‘results’?” or similar isn’t exactly nerve-shredding drama.

I like to think local journalists are held in slightly higher esteem but, despite Hollywood’s best efforts, national hacks continue to be considered a slimy bunch.

Stunts like the Mirror’s recent attempt to infiltrate Tory HQ don’t exactly help, with their reporter Emily Miller applying for a job as an assistant to the Conservative Party chairman.

Apparently, the fact she was found out during the vetting process is indicative of how David Cameron is getting tough on bad publicity, tough on the causes of bad publicity.

Checking her references, her prospective political employers discovered she shared a name with someone who’d written articles for the Daily Mirror.

So – let me untangle this Robert Ludlum-esque web. They Googled her? And she forgot the need for a pseudonym?

The Bourne Identity, Fleet Street style. “He’s popped up on the grid, sir. Looks like he’s registered for a mortgage, a bank account, started a MySpace page and applied to be on How Clean Is Your House.”

It’s not exactly world-class levels of espionage or efficiency, is it, more of a no score draw.

When officials confronted Ms Miller last week she’s reported to have said: “I have been rumbled” before fleeing the building.

For some reason, this reminds me of the even-more-excruciating-than-usual Blind Date episode when Cilla unmasked an undercover journalist on air, and proceeded to tell her off in the manner of a grandmother who’d just been mooned at by a four year old.

(Not sure what revelations the Blind Date mole was supposed to be scouting for. “They script the laboured gags to camera, and made us pretend to not know how to work the pedalos…” A nation betrayed and left to pick up the pieces.)

The Mirror trick was a fairly shoddy fishing expedition, though. The code of newspaper practice holds that subterfuge can only be justified if it’s in the public interest and the information can’t be obtained any other way.

There isn’t a clause about digging around in the hope of some dirt if it takes your editorial fancy in the middle of silly season.

A former journo friend who changed career had to spend some time convincing his bosses that he wasn’t doing a story on them. I think when he clocked up several years in his new profession they accepted that there’s sleeper agents and then there’s just asleep.

It’s also a timely reminder that journalists should report the story, not be the story. No chance of egos running out of control in Nottingham.

A waitress came up to me in a restaurant recently and said: “Where do I know you from?”

I explained I write a column for the Post and she probably recognised me from my byline photograph.

“No, I don’t think so,” she said, “Oh – I know. I used to work in a coffee shop in Hockley a few years ago and you were in there like all the time.”

I didn’t tip.