Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Paper

I caught the national screening of "The Paper" this week on PBS' "Independent Lens," and let me add my voice to the praise the documentary has receive. If it is screened again on PBS, I highly recommend you watch it.

This yearlong look at The Daily Collegian, the independent student paper at Penn State, encapsulates every problem -- and joy -- of the news business these days, from falling circulation to the rising stranglehold power of PR (especially in sports). Yet it was also inspirational to see these young journalists work around the obstacles. (Only downside -- I wish the filmmakers had sought to put the school's sports information department on the hot seat.)

It's good to see from the IL site update that several of the students featured in the film are still in journalism. But it's also disappointing to read this from James Young, the paper's editor during that year:

After two years of laboring at a small newspaper after graduation, the lack of job opportunities in journalism encouraged me to pursue another passion: urban revitalization. I'm living in Philadelphia and in my first year as a grad student in the City Planning program at the University of Pennsylvania. Now I think about traffic circulation instead of worrying about newspaper circulation.

I hear that too often from some of our best graduates, too, and I sometimes wonder if anyone in this business is listening.

I'd love to buy a copy of the DVD, but at $400 a pop that's out of range. (Yes, I understand and support the creators' right and desire to make some bucks out of this, but these days we individual instructors have to buy a lot of these materials, so maybe some kind of "educational" arrangement -- the "Independent Lens" site indicates "educational" copies are available, but I don't see anything on the distributor's site. We'll see what an e-mail inquiry brings.)

Until then, the IL site tells me "The Paper" is being rebroadcast at 3:30 a.m. this Tuesday, so I guess it'll be slip the tape into the VCR.

(Update: Found an excellent review and further update by Jonathan Storm of the Philadelphia Inquirer.)

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