Dead-tree journalism

As I mentioned yesterday, within hours of each other I came across two different stories where the central character wasn’t a person but a newspaper.

On the plane I noticed BA starred Page One, the documentary about The New York Times as a “hidden gem” and so I watched it. And when I arrived to my holiday destination I started on the novel I’d brought with me, The Imperfectionists, which revolves around an imaginary international broadsheet based out of Rome.

Both are better described as portraits as opposed to stories in the classic sense since both leave us with a sense of unresolved struggle. Both were satisfying in different ways and with both it was impossible for me not to revisit the fantasy I once had about becoming a journalist — they reaffirmed just how ill-suited I am to that profession.

Since the tension driving The Imperfectionists doesn’t rely on the fate of the newspaper, but rather the characters connected with it, I don’t think I’m spoiling things by revealing that the paper does indeed collapse. But how and why and when is well worth reading. More on that in the next post.

The Page One reality piece is interesting for a different reason — the characters are colourful, but we’re more gripped by the integrity of the paper itself and whether it can continue.

The film introduces us to an old hack, a new idealist and a tweeting pragmatist (read or listen to this short review by NPR if you don’t think you’ll get a chance to see it for yourself.) We get an insight into new vs old media as the movie offers us a New York Times investigation into the potential end of The New York Times.

Watching Page One I didn’t get choked up like I did when a colleague of mine insisted that the Kindle had come along to kill the book, but I was reminded of all the reasons why I’d once thought journalism if not the most noble, at least the most romantic job in the world.

I remain hopelessly intimidated by the sort of writers with the ferocious ambition, never mind talent, fearlessness and occasional personality disorders who go get the news for us. After the recent phone hacking sleaze and all the usual questions about who really owns the press, Page One is an on-time reminder that plenty of people still try hard to do the right thing. However much they might disagree about what that is.

But that’s all a bit preachy …. what I really got out of watching it was a nice big fat armchair fix.

If I wasn’t built to go off and be a journalist that doesn’t stop me from feeling a thrill watching others who did. Sure that captivation is infused with an envy and a disappointment with myself, but in the end that’s soothed by watching people do things I’d never want to do even if I believed I could. I remember reading Dark Star Safari, Paul Theroux’s intense account of travelling from the top to toe of Africa by land and water. I read the book from an infinity swimming pool in Turkey and when I put the book down I was beyond glad to be where I was and not where Paul had gone. I still feel that way about most of the news I read. On balance, grateful that someone else went out to get it.

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1 Comment

Filed under Bibliotherapy, Identity, Work

One response to “Dead-tree journalism

  1. I’m working on my Masters in History and I’ve been focusing on journalism. It’s amazing how things both change completely and stay almost exactly the same. In the 1890s, the New York Times came incredibly close to bankruptcy. Back then, nobody would have believed that it would become one of the most dominant news organizations in the world. I’m really interested to see how the paper fares in the digital age.

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