Stop the presses! ‘The Front Page’ is coming to Broadway
- Nathan Lane, John Slattery to play classic roles
Chris Jones, the whirling dervish theater critic-entertainment reporter for The Chicago Tribune (clone him and you could conceivably pare some newsrooms and improve quality), broke word last night that a "major, star-studded revival of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's 'The Front Page' — the 1928 play that romanticized Chicago newspapering, celebrated the achievements of 'crummy hobos full of dandruff and bum gin,' and came to define the news business in all its scooped-up, hacks-and-flacks glory — is headed to Broadway this fall." Nathan Lane will play Walter Burns, the acerbic and crusty editor, and John Slattery, who just segued from "Mad Men" fame to serving in the "Spotlight" ensemble that brought home the Oscar for Best Picture, will play ace reporter Hildy Johnson. (The Chicago Tribune) John Goodman, Rosemary Harris, Jefferson Mays and Sherie Rene Scott will be among others in a large cast.
"Spotlight" brought attention to a high-minded, endangered slice of modern journalism redolent of virtue. Set in Chicago's criminal courts building, "The Front Page" is a window onto a different media universe of saints and sinners and probably not recognizable to the Periscope-wielding armies of 20-somethings encamped in the sleek, smoke-free offices of the new digital bastions, mostly in Manhattan. (FYI: The initial 1928 stage production starred Osgood Perkins and Lee Tracy, while the first film version in 1931 starred Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien). I tracked down Jones last night and asked what the revival's significance might be, if any.
"This is part of a growing romantic interest, surely in print journalism. Is it mere nostalgia? Perhaps. Or a sense that something important is going away? As (77-year-old director) Jack O'Brien said to me, 'people are aware of the black rhino in the room.'" And, as Jones noted, the story is everything in the play. Bean counters are nowhere to be found, management changes are irrelevant to the enterprise and the reporters are writing what appears to be real news, "not 10 things to do now." Private equity slicksters aren't funneling ungodly sums in search of clickbait-hungry readers. And the frequently unscrupulous newsies have fun. So here's to a good revival and the hope the new digital armies at Gawker, VICE, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post and elsewhere buy tickets, check out some ink-stained wretches and then get plastered at some dank Irish tavern. Oh, for those who might just wonder, those things with rotary dials and long wires connected to the walls are telephones (albeit without a Facetime feature).
- Obama on journalism's future
At the Toner Prize For Excellence in Political Reporting ceremony in Washington last night, the president told his largely journalism audience much of what it surely wanted to hear, especially about a coarse ongoing presidential campaign where facts have been ignored frequently. He spoke nostalgically of all the newspapers he's still got in his Chicago home that he rarely sees. He conceded, "In an era in which attention spans are short, it is going to be hard because you're going to have to figure out ways to make it more entertaining, and you're going to have to be more creative, not less. Because if you just do great reporting and nobody reads it, that doesn’t do anybody any good, either."
He followed with this: "But 10, 20, 50 years from now, no one seeking to understand our age is going to be searching the tweets that got the most retweets, or the post that got the most likes. They’ll look for the kind of reporting, the smartest investigative journalism that told our story and lifted up the contradictions in our societies, and asked the hard questions and forced people to see the truth even when it was uncomfortable."
We shall see. Meanwhile, Alec MacGillis of ProPublica was the winner of the prize sponsored by the S.I Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. (ProPublica)
- Payback time for Stephen Glass
During a Duke University journalism class appearance Monday, Stephen Glass revealed that he's paid $200,000 to the magazines that published his fraudulent work, including the New Republic, Rolling Stone and the publisher of Policy Review. (Poynter)
- Austerity (Manhattan-style) hits Yahoo
Yes, it's the digital world's counterpart to "The Grapes of Wrath": Yahoo is holding a big event in its New York office this year, rather than at Lincoln Center, to give advertisers "less flash and more substance." It's part of Digital Content NewFronts, where digital big shots showcase their wares. Last year Yahoo had musician Steve Aoki play and Katie Couric announce her own news show. Maybe they'll announce how they'll get out of their seemingly escalating strategic mess. (Business Insider)
- Louis C.K's media love
The comic and star of "Horace and Pete" puts out weekly emails and the latest offers his take on the Internet and the news business in general. A week after comparing Donald Trump to Hitler, he opines that “Internet news is heroin. Newspaper news is nutrition. That’s MY view. The truth is that the news, if you’re really paying attention, is complex and boring." Newspapers aren't compelled to be quite so "immediate," so they have time to get their ducks in a row. The Internet is “immediate, brash and badly reported.” OK, yes, that's slightly short of a fully nuanced assessment. But at least offer him some thanks, get him tickets to "The Front Page" and see if he'll head to an Irish tavern after the curtain drops. (The Interrobang)
- Cable covers the Capitol shooting
Coverage of yesterday's shooting on Capitol Hill was an occasion to observe all the familiar rhythms of cable news. There was the instant turn to blanket live coverage, as if nothing else was playing out on the planet. There was a thrust to the hyperbolic, rumors, half-truths, the beckoning of security experts as pundits and hosts solemnly asking reporters, "What are your sources telling you?"
One had the instant airing of tourists' jumbled video, live interviews with ancillary figures (like clueless lobbyists who were in the vague vicinity), an occasional turn to a local affiliate's offerings and, then, the actual facts that leavened the excess before cable interest began to diminish amid the realization that it wasn't that big a story. I watched mostly CNN, and Dana Bash and Manu Raju did very well, while reporter Chris Frates suffered the perils of live TV as he informed us of the congressional leaders who were out of town and then told Jake Tapper, "If this had to happen, this was a good day for it to happen." Ah, no, Chris, it was not a good day, regardless of Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan being elsewhere.
- Keith Olbermann, pro bono editor
I mentioned yesterday that like the sun rising and setting, Keith Olbermann, currently without a full-time gig, gets a job, splits a job, gets a job. He then reminded me that I've had more employers in the past 14 years than he (three for him, five for me).
- Jill Abramson joins The Guardian
Former New York Times Editor Jill Abramson will be a weekly political columnist at Guardian U.S. (The Guardian) She was "dismissed," as her old employer put it yesterday, in 2014. (The New York Times) She and longtime friend Steve Brill, the journalist-entrepreneur, have put on hold a prospective longform journalism startup. (Poynter)
- ESPN to cover more wrestling
Our creative choices runneth over: ESPN will do more on pro wrestling. This struck Sports Illustrated as notable. "The network has long suspected there was a strong intersection between WWE fans and ESPN viewers. Now it says there is data to prove it." (Sports Illustrated) Demonstrating that the same people who watch "SportsCenter" six times a day might like steroid-induced body slams falls somewhat short of empirical research that might reveal, say, that divinity students crave roller derby or Death Row inmates have unappreciated fondness for "The Good Wife." But, whatever, it now portends our getting our share of The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar along with LeBron James and Serena Williams.
- Obama and press balkanization
In the runup to his Toner Prize remarks last night, The Washington Post indicated that President Obama was "set to lament the 'balkanized' state of American news media" at the gathering. He didn't. But they still have a point: While the political press may be fragmented by ideology, "He perpetuates the problem even as he denounces it." (The Washington Post) It's been clear for several years but he does frequently favor "media that target particular slices of the electorate that are largely aligned with him already: left-leaning comedians, bloggers, YouTubers and podcasters."
- Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
Jennifer Jacobs will join Bloomberg Politics. Previously, she was chief political reporter for The Des Moines Register. (The Des Moines Register) | Jon Brady is now news director for XETV in San Diego, California. Previously, he was morning executive producer for KING in Seattle. (Rick Gevers) | Job of the day: The Institute for Journalism in New Media is looking for an executive director. Get your resumes in! (Poynter Media Jobs Connection) | Send Ben your job moves: firstname.lastname@example.org.