BBC1's new drama Press shows journalism's grey areas, not the black and white

Ben Chaplin stars as a tabloid newspaper editor in Press, the new BBC1 drama from the writer of Doctor Foster
Ben Chaplin stars as a tabloid newspaper editor in Press, the new BBC1 drama from the writer of Doctor Foster
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Journalists often get an – ahem – bad press on TV. All too often, they are portrayed as venal, immoral, grubby hacks, determined to turn over ordinary people in grim pursuit of their story.

Rarely, they’re crusading, passionate, public-spirited individuals, fearlessly exposing wrongdoing in the corridors of power.
Of course, as Press (BBC1, Thursdays, 9pm) showed, the truth lies in the grey areas in between.
Press, written by Mike Bartlett – who wrote BBC monster hit Dr Foster – portrays the journalists of two rival newspapers, the Post and the Herald, as they struggle to find stories and keep their integrity intact.
The two papers are conventional TV fodder, one a red top, the other a mid-market tabloid – The Herald “sees itself as a prize-winning, crusading liberal-lefty paper exposing hypocrisy and corruption”, while the Post is “sexist, sensationalist and doesn’t check its facts... but it’s a lot more fun”.

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There are a number of plotlines in this opening episode – an MP embarrassed by past indiscretions, a suspicious hit-and-run, a mole in the security services – which will probably all come together in the end, and the ambience of the newsroom is well captured – although better lit, cleaner and with a lot less swearing.
Ben Chaplin is excellent as the Post’s editor, who clearly loves what he does, but who has made some moral compromises to get where he is: “What sort of journalist would I be if I was like the Herald? No instinct for news. All principles, no trousers.”
At least this drama about newsprint and inky fingers isn’t black and white, and sees journalism in its true colours.

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