There are basically two types of newspaper editors as depicted in movies and on TV. The ones who will stop nothing to get a story, such as J.J. Jameson, martinet in the Spiderman universe, and Walter Burns in the various iterations of The Front Page and His Gal Friday, and those who always have the backs of their staff members, a la Gus Hayes on The Wire, and, of course, Lou Grant. (We’re not mentioning shows based on real life incidents such as All the President’s Men, The Paper, and Spotlight, among others.)
When it comes to reporters, most are dogged researchers who are looking to bust the bad guys, the greedy, the corrupt politicians, although there are a couple of “fabricators” tossed in for variety. They share one characteristic: they are all a pain in the ass for their bosses.
The latest in this mix are editor Gus Reardon and ace reporter Harriet Dunkley of the Canberra Daily Journal in the Australian thriller, Secret City. Canberra is the capital of the country, which, I, being educated in the U.S., did not know. But it makes perfect sense in that most of the action involves the government (think House of Cards with cool accents). I chanced upon this Netflix release — now in its second season — thanks to a story in The New York Times.
A quick recap: there’s an Australian college student who’s being held captive in China for protesting on behalf of Tibet. This has a hand in difficult relations between the two countries which allows members of the Australian parliament to battle over an all-encompassing security law that would allow the government to vastly widen surveillance, yada yada yada.
Harriet is played by Anna Torv (Fringe) and has a good deal of bad history with one of the main pols. Gus (Huw “Not a Typo” Higginson) is her exasperated boss with a heart of gold; no matter how many times Harriet gets in trouble, he always has her back. She is supported by a spunky assistant (Lou Grant famously said to Mary Richards say, “I hate spunk”) and opposed by a competitive writer for the top stories. In fact, she’s assigned “less important” pieces almost as punishment for her stepping out of bounds.
The Daily Journal seems like a good size paper and, true to the current situation, is having difficulties, according to the boss. Yet when push comes to shove, they engage, to paraphrase him, the most expensive lawyers to get Harriet out of some hot water over sources. These are actually my favorite scenes, a they argue over what stories to cover, Gratefully, the Journal is more interested in getting to the truth than getting clicks online.
One minor complaint is that Harriet is perhaps a bit too conveniently connected to several individual threads in the story (I won’t want to spoil the fun by going into too much detail here).
Suffice it to day, I highly recommend Secret City, season one. If it’s any indication, season two, which came out recently after a two-year gap, “I’d put that in the pool room,” as the Aussies say.
Once upon a time, back in your grandparents day, there was a popular New York City mayor named Fiorello LaGuardia (a major area airport was christened in his honor). One of his major accomplishments came during a newspaper strike in 1945 when the Mayor, affectionately known as “The Little Flower,” took it upon himself to entertain his constituents by — wait for it — reading the comics over the radio.
Where’s Fiorello when we need him?
Because we sure as hell need something or someone to distract us from this circus.
In just the past couple of days, Trump has
questioned the loyalty of American Jews who might have the audacity to vote for Democrats. He claimed Israeli Jews love him. Bully for them; they don’t vote here. Plus the canard about disloyal Jews has been plaguing us for millennia.
referred to himself as “the chosen one” (the specifics don’t matter, just that fact should be a red flag). Who does that?
threw a hissy fit in deciding not to meet with the Danish prime minister because that country won’t let him buy Greenland.
flapped like one of those wind wigglers when it came to background checks for guns, now that the NRA has weighed in on the subject.
suggested that even though there’s no danger of a recession, he was still looking into payroll tax cuts so people could spend more. I’m no economist, but if you cut taxes, thereby bringing in less money, wouldn’t that ADD TO THE DEFICIT? Or was Trump planning on closing more departments that might actually help people?
Heaven help me, I tuned in to FOX News to see what they had to say about the Jewish voting thing. Sure enough, only one person on the panel of five — a token Dem — suggested that maybe Trump should tone down the dyspepsia. Everyone else placed the blame squarely on the Democrats for not quashing Omar and Tlaib, as if those two are now the voice of the party which is now totally anti-Israel. And let us not forget the new video circulating about the high school students who celebrated a sports banquet with Nazi salutes and song. Welcome to Trump’s America where such things aren’t even a source of back-room shame.
My wife has a veterinary house call practice and one of her clients is a very well-known celebrity who said I should stop venting on social media and do something more substantial. Good advice, but can’t I do both?
Life, you know? That’s the only reason I can think of for not having written for lo these many months. That and my crazy work schedule, which has me working from 4 a.m. until noon most days. Which means getting up at 3 a.m. Which means going to sleep — or at least trying to — before 9 p.m. Factor in age-related issues, and getting six uninterrupted hours is nigh on impossible. I don’t look it as sleeping through the night as much as a series of naps.
But I digress.
There have been many issues during the interim that ordinarily would have compelled me to return to this site. If you read this blog, I don’t have to tell you about the continued assault on the media by the man in the High Castle, White House. I find small comfort in that now he’s attacking FOX along with the rest of the news outlets, simply because they actually reported that the polls were showing he might not have all the support he loves to claim.
You can stop after about the 3:30 mark. Or keep going for more ridiculous news about Trump on gun control and the economy.
Now understand, I don’t give a fig about FOX News. What I do care about are legitimate news organizations and their ability to proceed unimpeded, something that Trump continually tries to undermine.
So I could have come back to the ‘puter after any number of his attacks on the press. But what really knocked me out of my doldrums was a supplement in the Aug. 4 Sunday New York Times all about the “Dying Gasp of One Local Newspaper,” in this case the 121-year-old Warrod, MN, Pioneer. It reminded me a lot of my own situation a few years back with the New Jersey Jewish News, the major difference being that NJJN went on without the majority of the staff, having been taken over by the New York Jewish Week. We had our own tearful goodbyes, sans the bloody Marys.
I may be biased, but I think the NJJN was a better product before the takeover, both in terms of visual layout and editorial content. That applies to the website — the repository of the paper’s editorial history — as well. I recently tried to look for some of my articles on the site after the death of an author whom I had written about several times, but none of them were there; did I really write them if there’s no record?
The overall situation of small and not-so-small papers disappearing or be shaved down — including the Times which recently delivered three-section papers instead of the normal four during the week — is quite depressing. It reminded me of the scene in It’s a Wonderful Life in which Peter Bailey appears before the board of the Building and Loan Company his late father created.
(By the way, it still takes a long time for a working man (or woman) to save $5,000.)
Point is, we need these small-time institutions to serve as a source of information, rather than relying on just a few questionable sources.
One more thing that made me pick up my virtual pen was another item in today’s Times by David Streitfeld titled “Paging Big Brother: In Amazon’s Bookstore, Orwell Gets a Rewrite,” all about how counterfeit books wind up in circulation and how many consumers, looking to save a few bucks, might purchase these items to deleterious effect: they might believe these are the real deal, even though the language and perhaps even authors’ meanings have been altered. Talk about fake news!
The counterfeits and imports are generally the least expensive editions, and who can blame people for buying those? So they do. A $7.99 legitimate edition of “1984” was recently ranked at No. 72 among all Amazon books. A $5 Indian import was at No. 970, which suggested copies were selling at a steady clip.