In the most recent edition of the Superman comics the man of steel’s alter ego, Clark Kent, quits his job as a reporter on the Daily Planet newspaper, and like every “I quit my job moment” in a film, does it in true Jerry Maguire fashion: storms out with a monologue about how disillusioned he is with his job.
In the latest edition of the comic, Clark Kent vents his frustration to his editor, Perry White, about 21st century journalism being more celebrity-orientated instead of focusing on the real-life day-to-day issues that affect normal people such as unemployment, health care and education. The “print media is dead” klaxon has been ringing out over the airwaves for years now, but what this outburst reiterates is not necessarily that print media is dead, but rather that how people define “news” is constantly changing and that journalists are doing a lot more than just “telling the story.”
With his boss breathing down his back about a lack of Superman scoops for the Daily Planet, Clark Kent cries out: "Why am I the only one who sounds like an ink-stained wretch who thinks news should be about, I don’t know, news?!" To which White replies: "Go easy on us mortals, Clarke. Times are changing and print is a dying medium." Clark then storms out and calls for his colleagues to stand up for truth, justice, and the "American way."
The use of words such as "mortal" and "dying medium" are simply reiterations of that "print media is dead" theme. But irrespective of what medium it is, Superman provides an underlying respect that we need journalists because they perform a public duty: to inform the public and to act as barometers of public opinion, which is vital for any healthy democracy (or as Clark would put it “the American way”).
Writer Scott Lobdell has told USA Today that it is likely that Clark Kent will become his own boss and set up the next Huffington Post or Drudge Report (or maybe the next PolicyMic) where he could possibly join the ever-growing plethora of citizen journalists and community bloggers.
Whilst this repeats the same dialogue of print media being dead, this also marks a significant character development in the shy and bespectacled alter ego of the Man of Steel. Clark Kent is regularly depicted as a bit nerdy, quiet, and awkward, in stark contrast to his more muscular and heroic alter ego.
We have also been told to expect that Clark Kent will now be more a man of his own and will be taking to the airwaves to give commentary and analysis; the complete antithesis of the old Clark Kent.
As Lobdell puts it, Clark Kent: “has been in this awkward position of everything he's writing is certainly a shading to keep his identity secret." But as everyone knows being quiet doesn’t get you far as a journalist, and less so in the modern day where everyone has an opinion and a blog.
Clark Kent in the recent Superman comic is ultimately an attempt to embody what some people think a good journalist should be: someone who knows what news is and sees it as their role to write about the things that matters, who puts their principles above a paycheck, and also someone who is willing to step out and fight for what they believe in using the power of words.