Character Background: Kevin’s Heroes were Reporters

Character Background: Kevin’s Heroes were Reporters

I often find the my characters tell me what I need to know about them in order to write the story.  Not all at once, necessarily, but eventually.  As I was getting to know Kevin, the narrator for the novel I’m writing, one thing jumped out right away – this guy was a reporter, a journalist, and he’d always wanted to be a journalist. I already knew that he was a fan of comic books, so it made sense that he’d love Superman, who worked by day as a reporter. Walter Cronkite ruled the evening news, and symbolized the best of American journalism. His presence in the home every evening delivering the important news of the day – the moon landing, updates on the war in Vietnam and the news of Kennedy’s death — was a comforting constant. Cronkite was respected, and he had a lot to do with the elevated place journalism enjoyed in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

It also made sense that Kevin would have loved All the President’s Men and the journalists who were at the center of that story, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.  These guys dug up dirt on dirty politicians, some of the most powerful men in the nation, including the President of the United States  That investigation ultimately led to his downfall.  Of course, this would inspire a wannabe reporter like Kevin.  These guys would be his heroes.  I didn’t even question the logic of that conclusion.

It’s worth pointing out that I hadn’t seen the movie, or read the book yet.  I watched the movie a few days ago, the DVD came with some additional material compiled 30 years after the movie came out in 1976.  In 1976, Kevin was 16 and a member of his high school’s newspaper staff.  As the movie unfolded, my internal Kevin lit up.  These were his role models, his heroes, especially Woodward.  No question, this was the event that cemented his future goals to be an investigative reporter. My gut instincts were confirmed.

How did I know that a year ago, when this character first started solidifying in my head?  Even though I hadn’t seen the movie, the impact of it was part of the culture I grew up with.  That Nixon was a crooked politician who surrounded himself with crooks was established fact. I grew up knowing that. That two reporters had taken him down was something that had made an impression on me. Like Kevin, I was in journalism class in high school. I Like Kevin, I had a notion of the nobility of the press and the place it ideally held in our democracy.  I also wrote for the college paper for the year I attended.  I liked it a lot, still think about it and know that my time spent learning journalistic methods and ethics had a huge impact on me, for life.  Looking back now, I wonder why I didn’t take a future in journalism more seriously.  A topic for the future, perhaps.  At any rate, all of this has been swimming and stewing around my head for over 30 years and out pops Kevin and his hero worship of reporters.

I really enjoyed the movie.  I got stirred up by it.  The interviews and additional material with the DVD, about the state of journalism in 2006 vs  the early 70s warned of a future we are living now, with a president who openly mocks and threatens journalists.  Now I want to read the book.

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