Friday, March 30, 2007

The American newspaper: 'A damsel in distress'?

On the door of room 745 at the JW Marriott is a cryptic, hand-penned message: "STOP THE PRESSES: PLEASE KNOCK."

Inside the hospitality suite is a makeshift studio where two men are trying to tell the story of the American newspaper. This week they have invited an elite handful of ASNE members to predict whether or not, well, the presses might literally stop.

PBS-published filmmaker Mark Birnbaum said this:
"We're posing the newspaper as a damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks ..." Manny Mendoza added, "about to get run over by the train."

And Mendoza should know. Just last year, the former TV and film critic took a buyout from the Dallas Morning News.

Chopin's "Nocturnes" played forlornly in the background as the pair explained their documentary. At first Birnbaum and Mendoza planned to call the film "- 30 -" in a reference to the traditional newspaper signoff. Ultimately, they christened it "Stop the Presses: The American Newspaper in Peril."

Here in suite 745 (price tag per night: $500), Birnbaum sleeps on the Murphy bed and Mendoza on the pull-out couch. Not knowing how much funding they'll ultimately get, they're trying to stay frugal.

That's a problem we can all identify with.

- APRIL YEE / ASNE Reporter

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