In a 4.20 column, Marshall Fine notes how two semi-major studio movies released within a week of each other — State of Play and The Soloist — are (a) about print journalists and (b) are naturally including glimpses of the downsizing and death of the newspaper business. Talk about your rivers of sadness and finality.
“In last week’s State of Play,” he writes, “Helen Mirren, as the editor of the Washington, D.C., newspaper where Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams work, admonishes them about the fact that the paper has new owners — and they want stories that sell copies. The message is that the bottom-line-oriented business people who have taken over the nation’s print media are more interested in profits than truth, in making money than serving the public trust. Shocking.
“And in this week’s The Soloist, Robert Downey Jr., as real-life L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez, watches as one colleague after another packs his belongings into boxes and is escorted from the building by security guards after being downsized. Lopez himself — and his ex-wife/editor, played by Catherine Keener — never seem in danger of a similar fate, but it’s still disconcerting to see it happen to friends.
“[But] as canary-in-the-coalmine moments go, these movies are pretty tepid, because movies have such a long lead time. It’s one thing for Law & Order to pull plots from the news and rewrite them as crime drama — and even then, there’s a lag time of months. With movies, however, the lag is measured in years.
“Which means that whatever these movies are showing about what’s happening to newspapers, it’s much, much worse at the moment. Indeed, if you read the headlines, print media are pretty much on life support.”