Monday, June 26, 2006

Good Knight, going not so gently

You can’t blame Tony Ridder for shedding a tear as his semi-eponymous company formalized its forced sale to McClatchy Newspapers.

The liquidation of Knight Ridder represents not only the end of a once-proud publishing company but also the passing of life-as-most-of-us-would-have-liked-it-to-remain for the newspaper business. Or does it?

Availing myself the other night of the free, full-length, movie “Big News” at Google Video, I marveled at how far technology has come since 1929, when the talkie was filmed in an appropriately seedy simulated newsroom filled with clacking prehistoric typewriters.

Given the herky-jerky download of the video, it was perversely satisfying to know that things actually haven’t come as far as we think. As I determinedly stuck with the sputtering video, I was further comforted to see that at least one thing hasn't changed a lick since 1929, viz:

“I am sick of this bum racket,” the star reporter, played by Robert Armstrong, raged at his editor in an early scene. “What are newspapers good for, anyhow? Two-minute scandals for a lot of dumb Polacks that can’t even read English. And what are they good for after that? Something to put under carpets, plugs for rat holes, wrapping paper for bootleggers, bed quilts for bums in the park and a lot of other things.”

Minus the politically incorrect Polack crack, Armstrong’s rant would be quite at home in any newsroom today.

Needless to say, our hero bags a big scoop, regains his job and reclaims the affection of his significant other.

Let's hope today's newsfolk will continue to do as well.

Robert Armstrong (left) jousts with editor played by Charles Sellon in "Big News."