Journo Film: The Paper (1994)


The Paper is a comedy/drama starring Michael Keaton set over 24 hours in a busy newsroom. The film follows Henry Hackett the editor of a New York City tabloid in one day at the busy paper. Hackett is a workaholic with a pregnant wife at home, an impending job interview for another more prestigious paper and a deadline to meet. As you would expect a hot story lands on his desk which Hackett simply will not leave until tomorrow. This obviously complicates his relationship with his wife and with the other reporters in the newsroom.

The film, directed by Ron Howard, captures better than most the busy exciting buzz of a working newsroom. This isn’t surprising as the film was co-written by Stephen Koepp, ex editor of Time Magazine. The newsroom in the film has the feel of a place that never closes. Instead it runs like a 24 hour McDonalds, when the sun rises they just wipe the grease off and carry on. The newsroom is full of energetic reporters with big egos, heaps of old newspaper and an endless list of problems for Keaton to deal with.

The film is bolstered by some stellar performances from Keaton himself, Randy Quaid as a maverick reporter with a gun in his belt, Glenn Close as a tight managing director who will let a story wait until the next edition to save a penny, Marissa Tomeii as Hackett’s wife, a heavily pregnant ex-reporter, and Robert Duvall as an editor in chief facing middle age.

The New York Sun is the newspaper in the film, it is clearly based on the New York Post. The paper in The Paper is a scrappy little tabloid reaching for the most sensational headline to slap on it’s cover, even if it stretches the truth a little. In the film Hackett has a job interview for a paper called the New York Sentinel, which seems to be modelled on the New York Times. Ultimately Hackett decides that the alternative job, despite the bigger pay check and 9-5 hours will be less rewarding than his coca-cola fuelled stressful days at the Sun.

What can a journalist learn from the film?

Probably the most interesting piece of advise the film has to offer is when Henry throws a clipboard to a fellow reporter and imparts a few words of wisdom, “You can get into any building in the world with a clipboard and a confident wave.” sure enough shortly afterwards Randy Quaid, clipboard in hand with Michael Keaton waving confidently next to him march straight into a New York police station. A useful tip, one I would love to try at some point in my career!

However probably the thing I took away from The Paper was the sheer pressure and pace of life in a busy newsroom. I think this film ultimately proves that to survive in journalism, you have to absolutely love every minute of the job from the long hours to the low pay.

The film also suggests that it is justified to steal a scoop straight off the desk of a rival paper.

Let me know what you think of the film by tweeting your thoughts to @nickjhp and use the hash-tag #JournoFilms.


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