Episode 76: Inside House of Cards Part 4

Zoe Barnes is not real.

Francis Underwood has finally made it to the White House.  The character, played by Kevin Spacey, spent the first two seasons of “House of Cards” scheming, murdering and blackmailing his way from Congress to the vice presidency to the Oval Office.  Together with his equally conniving wife, Claire, played by Robin Wright, they knock down every conceivable barrier, using any means necessary, in their quest for power.

The show is filled with a lot of people willing to do almost anything to get what they want – but among the sleaziest characters in the series are a couple of female political reporters.  They sleep with their sources, can’t help but catfight with each other and have the ethical standards of …. Well, they don’t have any ethical standards.

We’re talking about Zoe Barnes, the young ambitious upstart reporter who starts at the conventional Washington Herald and flees for greater freedom and fame at the start-up digital “Slugline”. Her nemesis is the Herald’s White House correspondent, Janine Skorsky, who ultimate joins Zoe at “Slugline”.

The idea that there’s a certain amount of sex or sexism in the Washington press pool isn’t totally off base. But that doesn’t mean real-life female political reporters see themselves in these characters.

Pamela Kirkland, a video reporter at The Washington Post, wants to make one thing very clear, “I don’t sleep with people to get stories, that’s not how this works,” she says. “I am a journalist in Washington, D.C., but those are the only parallels between myself and Zoe Barnes.”

“House of Cards” actually uses a part of the Baltimore Sun newsroom as its set.  That’s where reporter Carrie Wells works. “I think a lot of people on the staff are fans of ‘House of Cards’,” says Wells.  But she cautions, “it’s good entertainment, it’s just not journalism.”

Listen to what it really takes to be a successful female political reporter in part four of our podcast series “Inside House of Cards.”

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