Firefly Lane, released on Netflix on February 3, chronicles the 30-year friendship of Tully and Kate. Together, they navigate life, love and careers in their chosen industry: journalism. Interestingly, it’s the industry choice that makes Firefly Lane a perplexing watching experience.


The rise of TV Journalism

Firefly Lane is set between 1970-2003, with the plotlines taking place in 2003. Throughout the season, we get flashbacks to different periods of Tully and Kate’s friendship: when they first met at 14, when they were college roommates, and at the start of their journalistic careers.

Given the time period, audiences get a unique glimpse of an interesting moment in journalistic history — the boom of television journalism. CNN’s first broadcast was in 1980, and it revolutionised the industry. Consequently, people had access to 24-hour constant news streaming. Information was now easily available for the masses.

Television journalism was particularly effective at international war coverage. The Vietnam war (1955-1975) is often called the ‘first television war’ or the ‘living-room war’ as television allowed footage of the conflict to be brought directly to American living rooms. In Firefly Lane, Chad Wiley — one of Tully’s college professors — remarks on Walter Cronkite’s broadcasting technique during the Vietnam War. As the anchor of CBS Evening News, the American public perceived Cronkite as the ‘most trusted man in America’. He was an influential voice who helped shape public opinion about the war, especially in Middle America.

War coverage on TV only continued with the First Gulf War in 1990. When the coalition forces first bombed Baghdad, CNN were the only reporters in the city to broadcast the bombing live. They had the necessary satellites, producers, expert commentators, equipment and employees — making documenting the war an easier process. Their reporting of the Gulf War later became one of the landmark events that helped make the network what it is today. Through live TV journalism, audiences back home had vivid images of conflicts occurring on the other side of the world.

A declining industry

However, as the years progressed, journalism has once again shifted to adapt to new technologies. Traditional TV viewing numbers have been in decline. If we take the UK and the USA, views have ‘declined by [approximately] 3 to 4% … since 2012′. Although older audiences continue to watch television, it is less appealing to the younger generations.

Resultantly, with the rise of the internet and social media, TV journalism has been on a downward path. The appeal of television news rested on its speedy availability, but the advent of internet journalism has provided us with increasingly diverse sources for news stories. The emergence and prevalence of bloggers and social media, in particular, has only enhanced this welcomed diversity. Effectively, ‘video-enabled internet’ now stands in direct competition to traditional TV journalism.

Firefly Lane, although an enjoyable show, lends to a strange watching experience for those in the industry of writing and publishing news. It feels sublime to observe the motions of characters working in a super-charged industry that has drastically changed since 2003. And in today’s climate, with offices closing and journalism having transplanted itself online with so many journalists working from home, what is even stranger is the thought that internet journalism may be replaced by something even more revolutionary in the future.

Though not technically a period piece, Firefly Lane still feels like one.