74 Joe Saltzman – 21st Century Image of the Journalist in Hallmark Films The 21st Century Image of the Journalist in Hallmark Films 2000-2020 Joe Saltzman Professor of Journalism and Communication Director of the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture (IJPC) A Project of the Norman Lear Center Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA [email protected] Introduction This is the first study of the 21st-century image of the journalist in Hallmark films. It analyzes 360 films that appeared on the Hallmark channels from 2000 to 2020. There are also seven alphabetical appendices1 totaling 936 pages that document each of the encoded films in the study. Other related documents include a list of all films by job titles and a list of all films by year. Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries2 aired approximately 860 movies, an overwhelming number originally produced for the Hallmark, during the first two decades of the 21st century. Although general viewership and revenue at most TV networks are declining, since 2016, Hallmark channels have done surprisingly well – both the Hallmark Channel and its Movies & Mysteries continue to rise in viewership.3 Television preferences seem to follow the nation’s political divide. A 2017 survey showed that those “who backed Hillary Clinton prefer political satire and stories with darker themes, antiheroes and unconventional families. People in regions that backed Donald Trump were more likely to watch shows that express traditional family values and also to steer away from political themes and stories that denigrate religion.”4 Hallmark’s appeal is strongest in the 75 The 21st Century Image of the Journalist in Hallmark Films, 2000-2020 Midwest and the South. Though the channel’s programming is politically agnostic, if the audience strongholds in red are highlighted on a map, “it would look much like the electoral college results in the 2016 election. Ratings for Hallmark programs are higher by 50 percent or more outside of the top 10 TV markets that include blue state centers New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago.”5 One professor who has studied media messages, points out that “people tend to consume culture that is in accordance with their own attitudes, values and behaviors.”6 People in red states enjoy watching active affirmation of their beliefs about how the world should be. Hallmark provides a realization of a certain kind of ideal America. For women 25-54 especially, Hallmark movies provide family-friendly, comfort viewing.7 The Hallmark formula usually involves a high-powered career man or woman living in the big, cold city. This plot device includes magazine and newspaper journalists, bloggers, TV and radio anchors-hosts and public relations practitioners. For some specific reason, these successful men and women often return to the small town in which they grew up. It may be because a relative is sick or injured, a family business is in jeopardy, or someone or something back home needs their help. This usually happens during a holiday, mostly Christmas8, but occasionally, Easter or Halloween or Thanksgiving. The man or woman, usually divorced or widowed, meets a former sweetheart or childhood friend, usually with a child or two, and a courtship develops in a cute, unexpected meeting in which the children occasionally play an important part. The romance continues and the man or woman decides to give up everything to come back to their hometown and a new life. Then about one hour and 36-minutes into the film (including commercials) a crisis develops – a misunderstood overheard conversation, a glimpse of a document seen mistakenly or a conversation with a friend, relative or co-worker revealing 76 The 21st Century Image of the Journalist in Hallmark Films, 2000-2020 that the small-town significant other has been deceptive, lied, or misrepresented who and what he or she is. Angry and disappointed, the man or woman then decides to go back to the big city and their old life. The hometown turned out to be no nicer than the city in which they live. After very long commercials, everything turns out the way it should. The man or woman usually figures out the misunderstanding and returns to true love, leaving their successful career in the city. They usually give up the promotion they have worked so long and hard for or a coveted job in a different place. By the film’s end, the romance couple kiss a

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