Journo Film: Press For Time (1966)

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Norman Wisdom is pretty happy selling newspapers outside Westminster tube station, but his grandfather (the Prime Minister no less), thinks differently. He gets Norman a proper job, as a reporter on a local newspaper.

This British comedy starring Norman Wisdom is essentially a series of sketches strung together by a flimsy plot. Basically Norman gets an assignment, Norman messes it up. Norman goes to cover a village hall opening, his bike gets stolen. Norman covers a council meeting, he accidentally causes arguments within the cabinet. All with hilarious consequences.

Press For Time is fairly charming, and it is carried by Wisdom’s hapless charisma. But most of the comedic set-pieces go on for far too long, Norman Wisdom doesn’t seem to realise when the joke is over and every scene is done to death. I couldn’t help wanting the film to just get on with the plot.

What can a journalist learn from the film?

Even though Press For Time is pretty stupid in its nature it is fairly reflective of the actual working life at a regional newspaper. Norman is held back by the fact that he can’t do shorthand, an essential skill for every newspaper journalist. In one scene Norman and a fellow reporter even go to cover a local council meeting, something I can’t remember seeing in a journalism film before.

But at the heart of the film is a fairly strong warning to newspapers. The film explores the dangers of a strong political bias and the impact this can have on proper journalism.

The Tinmouth Times is owned by a conservative politician  who steers the paper to reflect well on the local Tory councillors. To the point where he blatantly re-writes stories and makes stuff up. Every piece of copy must receive a note from this politician saying that it has his approval.

Norman subverts this. He fights the paper’s editor to ensure his story, the truth, gets into the paper. Along the way he convinces his fellow reporters to join him, teaching them the values at the heart of true journalism they seem to have forgotten. All it takes is the simple and earnest manner of Norman who can’t understand why people can’t just be nice to eachother and tell the truth.

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