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A History of Fake DC-Area Newspapers in Movies and TV

Screenshot via Netflix.

If you don’t get your news from the Washington Herald, Washington Globe, Washington Probe, Washington Chronicle, or Washington Express, you’re not out of touch. These publications, despite their convincing names, don’t actually exist. They’re part of Hollywood’s tradition of creating fake publications for TV shows and movies, allowing filmmakers to freely portray newspapers without the fear of upsetting real ones while also continuing the illusion that journalism is a thriving profession carried out in big, beautiful, buzzy newsrooms. To celebrate the return of House of Cards on Thursday—which frequently features the totally not real Washington Herald—we’ve compiled a list of fake District publications mentioned on television and in films.

Washington Herald 

Screenshot via Netflix.

At the beginning of House of Cards, the Washington Herald—which was actually a real outlet in the early 1900s—is DC’s main newspaper, as well as the Season 1 workplace for journalist and eventual Frank Underwood mistress Zoe Barnes (she takes a job at the similarly fictional political website Slugline later in the season). Following Season 1, though, the Herald begins to play a less prominent role in the show after the arrest and imprisonment of the paper’s editor-in-chief. The name Washington Herald also pops up as a newspaper in the 1993 Julia Roberts film The Pelican Brief as well as the 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie Eraser.

Washington Probe

Screenshot via YouTube.

In Jason Reitman’s satirical Thank You For Smoking, journalist Heather Holloway (played by Katie Holmes) manages to seduce big tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor and coerce him into spilling his guts on record for an exposé. Her screen time may be minimal, but it’s this story for fake news outlet the Washington Probe that forces Naylor to reconsider his profession.

Washington Globe

Screenshot via YouTube.

The 2009 political thriller State of Play, which follows the mysterious death of a congressional aide, is framed around a piece of investigative journalism carried out by a reporter (played by Russell Crowe) and a blogger (played by Rachel McAdams) at the fiction Washington Globe.

Washington Express and Washington Chronicle 

Screenshot via YouTube.

1951 sci-fi flick The Day The Earth Stood Still features a slew of DC references, such as Walter Reed Hospital, Arlington Cemetery, Union Station, and the defunct drug store chain Peoples Drug. It also includes shots of not one but two District newspapers: the Washington Express and the Washington Chronicle. These papers appear as fleeting front page images, however the film honors journalism in other ways, specifically by giving cameos to prominent media people of the time like columnist Drew Pearson and radio personality H.V. Kaltenborn.

Langley Falls Post

Screenshot via YouTube.

FOX Network’s animated comedies seem to have a weird obsession with fake publications—there’s a dissertation-length Wikipedia entry on “Media in The Simpsons, for instance—and American Dad! is no exception. The show, which follows a CIA agent and his family’s Fairfax County life, prominently cuts to headlines from local newspaper the Langley Falls Post.

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