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WIU's Richard Ness Releases Book: 'Encyclopedia of Journalists on Film'

January 14, 2020

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MACOMB, IL -- From "Citizen Kane" (1941) to the recent Oscar-winning "Spotlight" (2015) and Steven Spielberg's "The Post" (2017), some of the most highly regarded films in the history of cinema have dealt with the journalism profession and members of the press. For one Western Illinois University professor, this has become the focus of an ongoing research project.

Richard Ness, a professor of film studies in the WIU Department of English, has watched and analyzed more than 4,500 films involving journalists, and his latest book on the subject, "Encyclopedia of Journalists on Film," has just been released by Rowman and Littlefield. The book contains detailed entries for more than 500 movies, ranging from recognized works such as "The Front Page" (1931), "It Happened One Night" (1934), "The Sweet Smell of Success" (1957), "Medium Cool" (1969), "All the President's Men" (1976), "Network" (1976) and "State of Play" (2009) to lesser-known films like "The Day the Earth Caught Fire" (1961), in which the potential end of the world due to a climate imbalance is seen through the eyes of the staff of a London newspaper, and the South American film "Detrás de la Verdad" (2014), which addresses the issue of fake news.

Ness's previous volume, "From Headline Hunter to Superman: A Journalism Filmography" (1996) contained entries for more than 2,100 films. In the preface to his new encyclopedia, Ness describes it as "not a second edition of the earlier book but more of a reboot, with the focus on detailed discussion of the films that most clearly define a genre of journalism films."

The Rowman and Littlefield website also will include a link to a list of more than 4,000 films featuring journalists that are not included in the encyclopedia. Ness serves as one of the associate directors of the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture project, sponsored by The Norman Lear Center and the University of Southern California/Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and plans to include more detailed information on these films on the IJPC website (

One of the results of Ness's work has been the identification of more than 250 journalism films from India, including at least four remakes of "It Happened One Night" (1934), as well as Indian versions of such classic Hollywood productions as "Meet John Doe" (1941), "Laura" (1944), "Call Northside 777" (1948), and "The Front Page" (1931/1974), and he is working on a book dealing specifically with this aspect of his research.

In addition to completing the journalism film encyclopedia, Ness has written the entry on Journalists in Motion Pictures for the next edition of "Sage's Encyclopedia of Journalism," to be published in 2022.

Aside from his work on journalists in films, Ness's article "Sing Along with Hitch: Marketing the Master of Suspense" on songs used to promote Alfred Hitchcock films has been published in the Routledge anthology, "The Soundtrack Album: Listening to Media," which will be released in February, and he has been commissioned to do an article on the partnership between directors Robert Altman and Alan Rudolph for the upcoming Autumnal Altman anthology from the University of Edinburgh Press.

For more information about the WIU Department of English, visit

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