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“In the 10 days after NBC put out a casting call for small-town newspapers to participate in a reality television show, the network received more than 150 responses from newspapers across the nation,” reports Christine Haughney.
The casting call sent out by NBC Peacock Productions asked, “Is your team a real version of ‘The Office’ meets ‘Parks and Recreation?’ “:
We’re an Emmy award-winning production company that’s looking to produce a documentary style reality show featuring a small-town local paper working hard to stay on top of breaking small-town news and keep financially afloat in an ever-increasing competitive world.
“NBC executives say they’ve been inundated with all types of pitches, from newspaper editors talking about how they are struggling to survive to newspaper staffs eager to show off their talents, sometimes well beyond their coverage of school meetings,” Haughney says.
Not every newsroom is so enthused or flattered. Clay Lambert, editor of California’s Half Moon Bay Review, wrote an open letter to the show’s producers:
I guess to put it in the terms you will recognize, I’m the Michael Scott of this office.
Maybe it only looks like a train wreck here in booneville because we’re simple people. You may also have different theories of editing than we do at the newspaper. We just try to tell the truth about our neighbors. It can be really tedious. We just report the big events of their small lives – births, marriages, high school sports championships … unimportant things like that. Unfortunately, that probably doesn’t make for scintillating “reality” television. Sorry about that.
Stephen Silver points out that this show would not be the first of its kind:
The idea of a newspaper reality show isn’t unprecedented: In 2008, MTV broadcast an 8-episode reality show called The Paper, about the staff of a high school newspaper in Florida. I may be biased as a journalist, but I was glued to the show all the way through.
The news organization would not be paid to participate, Haughney reports, but an NBC executive predicted: “The advertising rate for that newspaper would go through the roof.” Now that would be worth documenting.