Don’t get me wrong. I love newspapers. I even wrote a weekly column for a small group of community papers for many years. And I still read ’em faithfully (although these days, I have to admit, I read the dailies in coffeeshops, the laundromat or the library.)
Back in the Seventies just about everyone read “the paper” and when the Watergate scandal hit the fan and was adapted into a best-selling novel and an Oscar-winning film Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward became the rock stars of print journalism. Post editor Ben Bradlee and publisher Katherine Graham became icons of the American press. (Mr. Bradlee is now 91 and listed as “vice-president-at large” of The Washington Post. He has not been an editor since the early 90s. Ms. Graham passed away in 2001.)
Still, all but the most devout fans of print journalism would have to admit a sea change has happened in the world of metro dailies with the advent of digital media.
Films and TV shows have been writing obituaries for big papers (like the Post) for several years now.
Viewed in this context, the exchange between “Washington Herald” editor Tom Hammerschmidt (a fictionalized version of an old school Ben Bradlee-type editor?) and “Herald” publisher Margaret Tilden (a fictionalized Katherine Graham?) on the Netflix series House of Cards may seem especially relevant.
Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver): “….. Twitter, blogs, enriched media. They’re all surface. They’re fads. They aren’t the foundation this paper was built on. And they aren’t what will keep it alive. We have a core readership that thirsts for hard news. Those are the people I work 80 hours a week for. And I won’t be distracted by what’s fashionable.”
Margaret Tilden (Kathleen Chalfont) looking at him sadly “That’s your resignation letter. Hand it to the lawyers on your way out.”