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Saturday, 1 May 2010

Lisa Tobin is a journalist in Waking the Dead, a crime series being screened now on the ABC. It's a BBC series and the episode in question, 'The Fall', originally screened in Britain in January 2007.

Tobin is interesting because, unlike in most cases of a fictionalised journalist, she's a character to be admired. She's attractive, appealing, a natural victim (in 'The Fall' she's abducted at one stage and stuffed into the boot of a car), and develops a positive relationship with Detective Inspector Peter Boyd, chief of the cold case unit.

Her profession comes into play in the drama, but it turns out that she's the natural child of the woman who was found dead at the start of the program, Katherina Keene. Keene, a Catholic, gave the child up for adoption in the early 1970s. Tobin spent her life trying to track down her mother and, then, trying to find out who killed her, and why.

Slim, pretty, well-turned-out, and professional, Tobin turns Boyd's head. She also displays commitment and talent; she stumbles so close to the truth that her safety is imperilled. This plot twist cements her in our imaginations as a sympathetic character. All in all, she's someone we would be proud to call a friend.

For a journalist, this is unusual treatment on the small screen. As a rule, journalists are unprincipled, venal, and morally corrupt: a species of person who is just out for the good headline. Tobin turns this trope on its head. Why?

I believe it's her dedication to a single object, her dedication to a cause if you like. We can tolerate journalists who put their aspiration for truth above mere popularity in the press. It's an interesting thought for journalists to think about. After all, the profession is one of the least-popular, routinely rating alongside lawyers and used-car salesmen.

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