The Velvet Café

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The endangered smell of a morning paper fresh from the print

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Have you ever gotten your fingers dirty as you snatched the first copy of the next day’s morning paper from the print press? Do you remember the smell? Can you recall the mix of excitement, pride and exhaustion as you walked home in the night with a day’s work under your arm, seeing the distribution cars arriving to pick up where you left?

No door back
It’s been 18 years since I worked at a newspaper and you would think that I’d be over it by now. But there’s something in it that pulls me back – a dream fuelled by nostalgia to reenter the world I once left behind me when the children arrived and I decided that I’d better move to a safer territory. I tell myself lies about that I still could become a journalist again if I only chose to. Deep down I know I probably can’t.

Whenever I meet the reporters of today, seeing their crazy performance of multitasking, taking pictures, shooting films for the web and tweeting simultaneously as they write, always with an “for immediate publication” deadline hanging over them, I think that they’re a different kind of breed. If this lady turned up at a news desk, looking for a job, she’d be rightfully laughed off.

The door back to where I came from closed a long time ago. There is no return, not to the world that I knew. This is even clearer to me after I watched Page One: Inside the New York Times.

The future of journalism
While New York Times plays in a different league to the places where I used to work, the problems newspapers all over the world are facing are similar. Subscribers jump the ship since there are plenty of online sources where they can get the news for free. The advertisers go with the subscribers. This leaves them with no alternative but to cut down on their staff while desperately trying to figure out a new business model.

Where is journalism heading? Is there anyone in this world who is ready to pay for informative, investigating and insightful articles, pieces that reporters have put some proper work in? Or will we be left with nothing but gossip, speculations and pure entertainment, since that’s what people are prepared to pay for, and in the end it’s all just business?

Will printed newspapers disappear from the market as quickly as the mechanical typewriters did? I would like to say “no”, but maybe it’s just my heart speaking.

Turmoil and confusion
This documentary doesn’t try to make prophecies; it rather reflects the current turmoil and confusion in the business. There are no groundbreaking reveals but it gave me some easily digested food for thought and a glimpse into what’s going on. Even the flagship of all flagships is struggling and it’s inevitable but still sad to see.

If they make a follow-up in let’s say, twenty years time, will there even be a printed edition of NY Times? I sincerely hope so, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Page One: Inside the New York Times (Andrew Rossi, US, 2011) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

May 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Page One