I thought I was the only one at KPCC writing about comic books, but Kitty Felde brings up an interesting point on her blog: Spider-Man taking photos of himself, then selling them to the Daily Bugle in his identity as Peter Parker, seems to raise a variety of ethical questions.
I've always winced a bit at scenarios like that, as well as whenever Clark Kent would report on the big story involving Superman.
One of Peter Parker's key motivations has always been to provide for his Aunt May, widowed by a common criminal who Peter failed to stop through his own inaction when he had the chance. It might not make Peter a good journalist, but it makes him a likeable character as he sells photos to help his poor and at times seriously ill aunt.
You can see the highlights of Peter's story in the trailer for the first movie in the recent Spider-Man trilogy:
I'm a bit harder pressed to offer even a character defense of Clark writing about Superman, but the best writers of the character usually have Clark failing to get any story involving Superman, with Lois Lane getting the credit. Of course, this raises a whole other series of issues due to Clark giving the story to the woman he's fallen for, including exclusive interviews (as memorably depicted in 1978's Superman: The Movie).
One other way that good writers tend to handle the journalistic side of these characters is to point out that they're great journalists with the non-superhero stuff, so that it doesn't seem like such an abuse of power if they write a story about the superheroes as well. Lois Lane may write about Superman from time to time, but she's also getting the inside scoop on corruption, international affairs and more.
All in all, it looks like being a superhero doesn't necessarily make you a super journalist.
As long as we're talking Superman, here's a cheesy song from the soundtrack to the original Superman movie that I recently fell in love with. I'm not sure what's more astounding: that this was a hit song at the time, or that these words were actually said by Margot Kidder as Lois Lane in the movie.
You can also click here to see the scene from the film with Lois actually saying things like "I don't know who you are, just a friend from another star" and "Holding hands with a god, I'm a fool." It's done so endearingly unironically that I kind of love it.