CJR has a pretty superficial look at how journalism is portrayed in Superman: The Movie. The writer spends a lot of time writing about David Carradine’s monologue about how Clark Kent is just a front for Superman (a theory I think is a lot of bunk, especially in regards to post-Crisis Superman, where Clark is the main character and Superman is the outlet).
But even beyond that, the writer seems to have missed the role that the Daily Planet has in the world of Superman. First, Superman is at the planet because where better to be (in theory at least) than a major newspaper (the Planet is basically the New York Times of the DC Universe) to be at the nerve center of the world? If you’re Superman and you work at the Daily Planet, the world’s biggest most Superman-level stories come to you.
In Superman The Movie we see the major role of journalism in defining the world from the instance in which Lois Lane spends a night flying with Superman. As she lands and he flies away, she notes to herself about the stranger who has been nameless up until that point: “what a super man.” The next morning the lead story in the Daily Planet is “My Night With Superman” and that becomes his name. Furthermore, Superman chooses to speak only to the Planet because he knows they have respect and authority and will get the story right. In addition to his attraction to Lois, she is their best reporter. And while she begins falling in love with him, there she is with her notebook getting the answer to who he is (a visitor from a planet far, far away), why he’s there (to help), and what his vulnerabilities are (he can’t see through lead).
I concede that the movie does not have a lot of shoe leather reporting in it, but let’s not kid ourselves, Superman was a summertime action-adventure film, not a deep treatise on a reporter in the city.
That said, in the Superman comics, there have been instances where Superman has learned that he can best effect changes not as Superman, but as reporter Clark Kent. I remember an issue where he was able to expose the corruption behind a developer who wanted to tear down a home, not by using his fists as Superman but by digging into the company as reporter Clark Kent.
The comics have also dealt with the various outside influences on newspapers that we see in the real world. For a time in the late ’70s, Clark Kent wasn’t a print reporter but was a tv reporter for WGBS. A couple times, corporate conglomerates have purchased the Daily Planet in order to subvert its influence. Lex Luthor once bought the paper which eventually prompted Editor In Chief Perry White to quit in protest.
These outside forces want to subvert the Daily Planet because to the average every day citizen in the DC Universe, it is the news source they trust to give them the story in a fair, detailed manner. It’s a pretty good standard for news organizations in the real world.