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Supergirl Highlights The Problems With The Arrowverse's Media

Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for Supergirl season 6, episode 8, "Welcome Back, Kara!".

A recent episode of Supergirl made reference to the Daily Planet and the Central City Citizen as rivals of CatCo Worldwide Media in the Arrowverse, unintentionally highlighting how poor a job the various CW superhero shows have done in building a shared universe in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths. The information presented in the Supergirl episode does not match up with recent events in The Flash or Superman and Lois at all. This is ironic given that one of the chief complaints regarding the 2020-2021 Arrowverse season has been how little interaction there was between the various series (due to the COVID-19 pandemic making the usual crossover events impossible) and little sense of the shows sharing the same reality.

The midseason finale of Supergirl season 6 was disappointing; the first seven episodes found Kara Danvers trapped in the Phantom Zone, and her allies among the Super-Friends focused on finding a way to rescue her while protecting National City from the menace posed by a single escaped Phantom. Nia Nal (a.k.a. Dreamer) had to pull double-duty during this time, not only trying to find a way to use her prophetic powers to foresee the means of rescuing Supergirl but also covering for Kara Danvers' absence at her day job as an investigative reporter at CatCo Worldwide Media. This ultimately led to a whopper of a lie that Kara was off on a deep-cover mission to interview a resistance leader in an unnamed warzone.

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Kara finally did return to work in the Supergirl episode "Welcome Back, Kara!" but without the big story her ally promised, landing her in hot water. While this was a welcome and realistic change from heroes like the Flash disappearing in other Arrowverse series — missing work for months without fear of losing their jobs — Kara's return went on to reveal some conflicting information regarding various media outlets in the Arrowverse. Chief among these revelations was that the Central City Citizen was apparently a high-selling national newspaper and that the Daily Planet was doing well.

Supergirl season 5 introduced the character of Andrea Rojas, a tech magnate from Argentina and Lena Luthor's only friend as a child. Seeking a way to hurt Kara Danvers, whom she had just learned had been hiding her secret identity as Supergirl from her, Lena sold CatCo Worldwide Media to Andrea in the premiere episode of Supergirl season 5, knowing that her old friend would use the media outlet as a promotional tool for her company, Obsidian North. This annoyed Kara deeply, as she (and the rest of CatCo's writers) were pushed by Andrea to write sensationalist puff pieces and articles promoting Obsidian North products over hard news. They were also forced into non-competition contracts that would prevent them from being rehired by another media company if they quit.

Andrea reconsidered this approach somewhat as Supergirl season 6 started, saying that CatCo could be "a beacon, the crown jewel of investigative journalism." This led her to allow writer William Dey to publish an expose regarding Lex Luthor's crimes using Obsidian North's technology, in order to showcase CatCo's new commitment to journalistic integrity in the build-up to Lex's trial on charges of crimes against humanity. The story ultimately backfired on Andrea, as Lex's argument that he had been vilified by women that were jealous of his success won over the jury and found him sympathy among the same scandal-loving audience to whom Andrea had catered. The irony is that, in Andrea's case, Lex was not wrong, and the CatCo owner was more concerned with seeking revenge for being manipulated by Lex than honest reporting, outside of how honest reporting might be used to expose his criminal nature.

The Supergirl episode "Welcome Back, Kara!" revealed that Andrea had not learned her lesson and was still attempting to micromanage every aspect of CatCo's output. At a staff meeting, Andrea decried how "our little slip-up covering the Lex Luthor trial" had resulted in a hit to the reputation of Cat Grant's company and CatCo falling to number eight on the latest media tracker ranking of the top ten news outlets in the United States. Ever oblivious, Andrea threatened to fire everyone if they were not at the top of the list within a month's time, ignoring how the company's fall from grace was entirely her fault and not the Pulitzer-Prize winning team she had put to work writing click-bait. While this was in keeping with Supergirl's ongoing theme regarding the dangers of corporation-owned news, Andrea's presentation raised some interesting and contradictory points regarding other news outlets in the Arrowverse.

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While it is easy to believe that Andrea Rojas' actions in Supergirl season 5 and season 6 would have hurt CatCo's reputation, little else about the media rankings she cited made sense in relation to other Arrowverse series. The list Andrea showed ranked the Daily Planet as the highest-selling newspaper in the United States. This conflicted with the information presented throughout the first season of Superman and Lois, with Clark Kent having been laid off along with several other staff reporters at the Daily Planet in the pilot episode due to budget cuts.

Lois Lane went on to resign in protest from the Daily Planet in Superman and Lois, episode 2, "Heritage," after the Daily Planet's new owner, Morgan Edge, had one of her stories rewritten without consulting her. Coincidentally, Lois delivered her letter of resignation while interrupting a meeting in which Edge was threatening the remaining editors of the Daily Planet, saying "Either the website gets more clicks, or various people sitting in this room will… " before Lois barged into the boardroom. This all suggested a decline in rankings and revenue that doesn't match the information presented in the Supergirl episode "Welcome Back, Kara."

The same list also ranked the Central City Citizen, the newspaper founded by Iris West-Allen during The Flash season 5, as the number four media outlet in the United States. This is even more unlikely, given that Iris commented that her newspaper had lost 73% of their readership in The Flash season 7 episode "Central City Strong." That was probably due to the fact that two-thirds of the newspaper's staff (including their only photographer) had spent several months trapped in the Mirror World during the second half of season 6, and everything during that time was being overseen by aspiring writer and staff intern, The Flash's Allegra Garcia.

To Iris' credit, she did promote Allegra to a staff writing position in the same episode as a reward for her hard work and honesty in editing an article Iris had agonized over finishing, but this still doesn't mesh with Supergirl's image of the Central City Citizen as a high-quality national newspaper, particularly when it had always been portrayed as an independent local newspaper on The Flash. The reference to the Central City Citizen was made all the more ironic by the final scene of "Welcome Back, Kara!" in which Kara made reference to the story Iris West-Allen had written about her city coming together after a super-villain attack in "Central City Strong" and said she needed to write something similar about the Phantom attacks in National City. This firmly placed the episode sometime after Iris West-Allen complained that she had lost most of her readership, despite her paper being held up as one of the most successful in the country by Andrea Rojas.

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Ignoring the events of the past year, there is little about the media outlets in the Arrowverse that makes sense. While there's little doubt that Andrea Rojas has mismanaged CatCo, it is somewhat maddening that Morgan Edge apparently found success doing the same things that she did. This also ignores how all of Edge's companies apparently suffered major hits following the revelation that he was secretly a world-conquering alien from Krypton, which logically should have hurt the reputation of the Daily Planet — but it is also unclear just when the events of Superman and Lois season 1 are taking place relative to Supergirl season 6 and The Flash season 7. In any case, Iris West-Allen and Team Citizen should not be in the same league as an established paper like the Daily Planet or a multimedia empire with multiple Pulitzer Prize winners like CatCo Worldwide Media with a staff of three people, regardless of the quality of their work.

Thankfully, Superman and Lois has taken steps to address the Arrowverse's depiction of journalists and done a fantastic job of making Lois Lane's work as a reporter as important to the series' storylines as Clark Kent's efforts to protect the world as Superman. The season 1 finale found Lois using her savings to buy a stake in the beleaguered Smallville Gazette and entering into a partnership with local reporter Chrissy Beppo to turn the small-town paper into something bigger. While that may seem a difficult task in the seemingly doomed economy of Smallville, Kansas, Superman and Lois makes it seem plausible. Digital media makes it possible to publish news from virtually anywhere in the world and only a fool would stand against Lois Lane once she sets her mind to something.

While the modern-day Arrowverse has been inconsistent in showing the size of Iris West-Allen's online footprint, several episodes set in the future of The Flash have shown that her newspaper will grow into a multimedia empire comparable to CatCo Worldwide Media. However, it remains to be seen what will happen to the CatCo and Kara Danvers' journalistic career in Supergirl season 6. It seems likely, however, that Kara will be better remembered as the Last Daughter of Krypton than for her Pulitzer-Prize-winning writing.

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