‘House of Cards’ Podcast: A Review of the Terrifically Awful Journalism in Season One

Forget Valentine’s Day. The real national holiday began at midnight on Netflix with the release — unleashing, really — of all season two episodes of “House of Cards.” The political drama is by far my favorite entertainment programming — on a big screen, TV screen or laptop screen.

A mega-hit soon after its premiere last year, the show is wickedly fantastic. It’s of course so over-the-top that if you actually took a moment to consider the plot machinations and character motivations and how everything coincidentally comes together, you would realize how silly the whole shebang really is. In that respect, it’s a testament to the quality of the show that instead of being bogged down by the ridiculousness, you instead just get wrapped up in the story arcs and narrative twists.

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As a season one binge-watcher a while back (admittedly, more than once), I can attest to the important role journalism plays in the series. Yet, I have not seen many breakdowns outlining the genuinely horrific awfulness and unethical achievements of the main journalist character, Zoe Barnes (played by Kate Mara).

In season one, Barnes transforms from a no-name metro reporter at a daily paper mirroring The Washington Post to a fairly prominent Washington D.C. new media attack dog. Along the way, she engages in some of the most heinous journalism ethical breaches I’ve ever seen acted out in a film or show.

In honor of today’s unofficial “House of Cards” binge-watch holiday, I’ve put together a podcast celebrating Zoe’s journalistic nefariousness. And to be clear, as a huge “House of Cards” fan, I love her for it — in the scope of the show her misdeeds are of course essential. In the real world of journalism though, they should be avoided or at least second-guessed.

1. She shows up at the home of a major politician, unannounced, late at night, basically forcing herself inside via a whiff of sexual menace.

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2. She trades sexual favors for stories, sleeping with a high-level source in exchange for scoops.

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3. She trusts her secret source blindly, acting like his “virtual transcription monkey.

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4. She reveals her secret source to colleagues, violating their confidentiality agreement.

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5. She sneaks into a private part of a restaurant and steals a piece of private property to obtain a source’s phone number.

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6. She bullies a source into speaking with her by threatening to expose damaging personal information if she declines.

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7. She has a former colleague pretend to be someone else (an undercover cop soliciting a prostitute) to get information from a source.

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8. She breaks major news (about an education reform bill) without giving a heads-up or seeking comment from the main source involved.

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9. She posts stories without any copy editing or outside vetting.

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10. She says no to a huge promotion, a spot in the White House press corps, disparaging it and offending her editor in the process.

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Bonus questionable call: She seeks revenge on her editor by tweeting a vulgar term he directed at her during a private conversation.

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