The good people over at Cox Media’s Rare Magazine are on the hunt for a whip-smart, firebrand of a reporter to cover politics. In a now deleted job listing, Rare described its ideal candidate as an “intrepid reporter who knows their way around Capitol Hill but may also know a thing or two about the underbelly of our political process.”
“This journalist has no left-right agenda and is beholden only to good juicy stories that will be of interest to our readers inside AND outside the Beltway.”
The posting also described the reporter it’s looking for as less Paula Zahn and more like House of Cards’ fictional journalist Zoe Barnes, who was portrayed by Kate Mara. As word of the listing spread through the very gossipy world of media-types, scores of real journalists took to Twitter to express their distaste at the call for the media equivalent of a manic pixie dream girl.
Though Barnes was a tenacious reporter in House of Cards’ first season, the character was widely criticized by journalists for her glaring lack of professional ethics. In a television show where nearly everyone was morally bankrupt and seemingly hell-bent on making very, very bad decisions, Barnes stood out for coming so close to making it before getting sucked into the very underbelly that made her a media sensation. Over the course of multiple story arcs, Barnes committed a long list of journalistic sins that—SPOILER ALERT—ultimately got her killed:
Slept/fell in love with her boss:
This one is self-explanatory. You really shouldn't have sex with coworkers, and falling in love with one tends to cause issues in the workplace.
Alienates her coworkers in pursuit of her career:
As Barnes delves into Congressman Russo's mysterious drug relapse, she ignores the piling evidence that Frank Underwood, a close personal source, is involved. She aligns herself with Underwood partially because she's afraid of him, but also because she thinks he'll boost her career.
Slept with powerful, dangerous sources to get a story:
Barnes breaks a number of stories while working for the Politico-esque Slugline thanks to her very close working relationship with Frank Underwood. The relationship proves to be beneficial for Barnes's career, but it comes at the cost of her being under Underwood's thumb. Also, and this bears repeating, Frank eventually murders her to keep her quiet when she turns on him.
To be clear, much of the way that Zoe's character behaved on the show is emblematic of the problematic ways that Hollywood portrays female journalists on a rather consistent basis. That being said, it's one thing for a TV show to write dark character; it's another for a company to actively endorse their behavior.