With time ticking by and yet another deadline cropping up, a major metropolitan newspaper faces yet another day filled with clashing egos, massive stories, and crazed columnists. Which makes it a day like any other.
All this drama and slight insanity is encapsulated in this 1994 movie by Ron Howard called The Paper. A film brimming with an expansive cast and frenetic energy and oh so much social commentary still relevant to this day. But despite all these wonderful qualities, The Paper was a financial disappointment at the theatre.
My love for this gem is compounded by the companionship shared the night I first saw it, surrounded by my Googliebear and several of my friends (The Munchachos!) from college. The experience pulled this crazed story even closer to my reality.
But back to this 24 hour snippet of media life. We start with a devastating and racially charged murder in our setting, New York City. When this scoop is blown by The New York Sun, a feisty and loud tabloid, the City Editor is ticked and pissed and determined to right this cosmic injustice. Arriving at the newsroom, his clashes with the Managing Editor populate everyone’s radar and spill into the rest of the tense day. A tip about the murder leads to more arguments, more infighting, and more much needed soul-searching. This is the type of climatic story where all characters end up in a complete longjam of chaos and uncertainty, almost all of which converging at one place. And no, it is not the newspaper.
While parts of this story feel slightly antiquated, with cell phones being rare and the fabled internet not yet a gleam in the universe’s eyes, other topics still reverberate to this day.
The Managing Editor, played with a toughness born from immense stress by Glenn Close, is tasked with the hated job of cutting costs in order to remain hopefully profitable. And then she has to repeat that exercise again and again, making her a target of dislike. She does not relish what she does, nor does she deserve the outright harassment heaped out by the City Editor. But she does her best to find her way, and even comes to a realization by the end.
The eternal and elusive search for the truth, or for what passes for journalistic truth, is the quest of the frazzled City Editor played with a mixture of energy and thoughtfulness by Michael Keaton. He wants it right. He wants it right first. He wants it right for now and forever more. It that too much to ask? Working with a variety of reporters and columnists and other essential people, he has the unenviable position of trying to mix and match the staff for the best journalistic results. Which means, failure in this endeavor is often an option. The police reporter, for one, is entrenched in his position, but equally useless in doing it.
In so many ways The Paper is almost the direct descendant of the granddaddy of all newspaper movies, The Front Page. Good people caught up in scenarios just a bit beyond their control. All trying to do what they can to survive and thrive. All facing deadlines with considerable consequences.
The Paper brings much news and truth to the city they serve, and to the characters themselves. Much can be learned for all involved. And for us, the public for which they serve.
P.S. The Paper is copyright 1994 to Universal Pictures.