I watched the BBC’s version of State of Play (I typically frown on American studios thinking we’re too stupid to sit through a British accent (helloooo, Harry Potter) and would prefer the struggling TV networks just buy the rights and play the original, like PBS does with all the Mystery!s and period dramas, but it’s supposed to be a good movie and even tho Rachel McAdams will never be Kelly Macdonald, I might go see it anyway), so I know how it ends, but I’ll avoid the spoilers anyway and stick to the thesis…
Telegraph – State of Play confirms that journalists are not at their best in an heroic mould<br/> Newspapers evoke an inescapable nostalgia but that does not mean they are the only route to the truth, says Charles Moore.
The long final sequence of the film shows the edition with the key story (unrealistically delayed for four whole hours by Mirren while Cal storms the Capitol building to get at the Truth, narrowly avoids being shot and then files the copy), splashed over the front page. It gazes lovingly at the process of newspaper production – the great rolls of paper, the copies pouring off the belt, the trucks shifting them out of the print works in the dawn light. We observe it with nostalgic admiration, as we might observe the last round-up of cattle by mounted cowboys.
Actually, this is a tense and exciting film, and Crowe, who is an outstanding screen actor, gives his character genuine charm. But one must feel a little suspicious of the underlying thesis. If it is really the case that only people like Russell Crowe stand between us and overwhelming corruption, then, I fear, overwhelming corruption wins.
And while it is true that the pressures of the internet are making it more difficult for newspapers to devote the same amount of time to investigations as once they did, it is also true that the internet, with its subversive ability to let anyone join in, is an even more effective medium for exposing the powerful than the traditional newspaper.
I have worked all my life in newspapers, and I love them dearly, but we journalists are not at our best in heroic mould. The Watergate era did us no favours by making us feel so serious and important. In the end, it irritated the readers, who have found relief in the less portentous world of the blogs.
You want less portentous? You’ve come to the right place!