I never thought that I would identify with Russell Crowe. After all, I’m not a burly Australian man who dabbles in rock music, and I’ve never thrown a phone at anyone. But when I saw “State of Play” this weekend, I felt a certain kinship with Crowe’s character, seasoned newspaper man Cal McAffrey.
I never thought that I would identify with Russell Crowe. After all, I’m not a burly Australian man who dabbles in rock music, and I’ve never thrown a phone at anyone.
But when I saw “State of Play” this weekend, I felt a certain kinship with Crowe’s character, seasoned newspaper man Cal McAffrey.
The plot of the film centers on a political murder mystery. But, as a team of journalists bands together to solve that mystery, “State of Play” also provides some interesting observations about the state of the journalism industry.
Cal butts heads with Rachel McAdams’ Della Frye, an eager-beaver blogger who looks for “dirt” instead of facts and can never seem to find a pen. He quickly shows her what real journalism is, however, and she joins the reporting team that manages to unravel the mystery before the police can, producing a first-rate news story in the process.
As the closing credits rolled over footage of the paper going to press with Cal and Della’s story on the front page, I couldn’t suppress my massive grin. But the characters’ stirring journalistic triumph presents a stark contrast to the uncertain fate of newspapers, which is also addressed in the film.
In order to get their big story, the movie’s reporters work on nothing else for several days.
Although this practice is not uncommon in investigative journalism, it is becoming more difficult — if not impossible — as struggling newspapers are forced to cut staff down to the bare minimum. In fact, one of the real-life reporters who spent time working on a Pulitzer Prize-winning series about a local sheriff for Arizona’s East Valley Tribune lost his job in January.
Although the journalists in “State of Play” aren’t facing layoffs, their Washington Globe is not without its troubles. In the film, the newspaper is undergoing a “facelift” under its new owner, the ominous-sounding MediaCorp, and Helen Mirren’s editor is more concerned with “selling papers” than getting the full story.
And although the reporters get that story in the end (presumably selling some papers in the process), I couldn’t help wondering about the future of the Washington Globe — and the country’s real-life newspapers — after I left the theater.
A lot of people (including myself) questioned the intelligence of my decision to go into journalism. And now, whenever I talk to people about my job, the conversation inevitably turns to the current state of the industry.
“Well, aren’t newspapers going to be obsolete in five years?” “I get all my news online now, like everybody else.” “So, what are your plans for after you lose your job?”
Although I can’t deny that newspapers are facing some major problems — just like the rest of the country — I refuse to believe that they’re just going to die out altogether.
Yes, a lot of people are going online for news nowadays, but where do you think that news comes from? Although there are some reporters who produce content exclusively for the Internet, many stories that you read online were produced by hardworking journalists at newspapers and broadcast stations before they appeared on your computer.
And there is always going be a need for those hardworking journalists to deliver the news. Like Cal McAffrey, I believe that there are still people in this country who would rather read real stories with real facts produced by real reporters instead of the gossip and rumors that permeate the Web.
I’m sure you think I’m being overly optimistic. But I know that newspapers are going to have to make some major changes in order to remain viable, and I admit that I don’t have all the answers.
I don’t know how we’re going to survive, but I am confident that we can.
We’ll have to fight for our survival, but at least we have Russell Crowe on our side.
Amanda Jacobs can be reached at (309) 346-1111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.