Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Newspaper Heyday Movies

We live in interesting times, and how we receive our information has changed in some respects, but in a lot of ways, nothing changes. It is different today, because TV, and to lesser extent radio, have without a doubt, supplanted the newspaper as the way We The People, get our information. It was not always so. (yes, we agree the internet killed the newspaper too, but the internet just piled on and hastened the newspaper's decline from glory).

About 50-75 years ago, newspapers were king. Most cities had 2 newspapers - one for one political side, and one for the other. It was a constant battle with high stakes - as more papers being sold, usually meant more votes, and the winner gets power that comes from controlling the use of the taxpayers money. The tide changed over the seasons, but the public was always being played, by one side with an agenda, or the other side with an agenda. News wasn't really news, it was mostly spin, like red meat they fed your own philosophical beliefs, and the sound bytes you liked became your talking points. Whether you watch MSNBC or Fox - the same game is being played today. If you don't believe this, check out this Frank Random re-mix, Depotism or Democracy. It's is edited for irony and universal uneasiness.

So, we thought there were some good lessons out there, in a bunch of very good newspaper heyday movies. Most folks would put Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant and Rosiland Russell at the top of the list, but my vote goes to Frank Capra's Meet John Doe. The film offers wide open deceptive journalism, political intrigue, and the little guy, John Doe, getting put through the meat grinder. Barbara Stanwyck stars as the ambitious reporter, who compromises her ethics so she won't lose her job at the paper. Gary Cooper is brilliant as Mr. everybody, John Doe, a former baseball pitcher that injured his throwing arm. Next on the list - Nothing Sacred with Carole Lombard, Frederic March, and Billy Barty. Our final pick for newspaper related media is from a One Step Beyond episode called Where Are They? Here's the idea - what does a newspaper do, when the REAL story is just too bizarre to print for your readers? That's a good question - what would you do as a reporter?