Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, and Steven Spielberg walk into a newsroom…
Journalism, not the shouting on cable news, is invaluable in a democracy. More specifically, the gritty, old-school reporting approach with pen marks galore, endless stacks of paper and the pursuit of revealing the greater truth to an “off-limits” story instead of merely getting there/yelling something inflammatory first is increasingly becoming a relic of the past.
And it’s in this pre-digital past that Steven Spielberg ventured into for a modern-day reflection. Plus, Mr. Spielberg was able to bring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep together for the first time for a major motion picture.
Steven Spielberg’s forthcoming film The Post isn’t necessarily aiming to revitalize print journalism as much as it seems to be directed towards reigniting the spark of a thoughtful, determined American media.
Considering the times we live, in which news in the political, sports and entertainment spheres are indistinguishably blurred together and run and broadcasted by powerful insiders (former athletes, political operatives, and commentators on both sides, etc.), the question that lingers is, “Who can those on the outside trust?”
It is likely that The Post won’t comprehensively answer this critical question, but this film will transport audiences back to a time when there was information you knew and information you didn’t know. “Metrics” and “analytics” hadn’t yet become fancy synonyms for information. Journalists took a breath, focused and refocused a few times, went to work all day and night while framing a report in a context that far exceeded the words and margins of the said story.
Even when the story was (like in this film) larger-than-life and full of high-level risks and stakes for a nation asking important high-level questions.
The leaking of the Pentagon Papers had its fair share of controversy. It will be interesting to see how the legendary director chose to tell and frame historically significant events involving real people. Nonetheless, the Pentagon Papers and the Washington Post have received the top-shelf Spielbergian treatment in The Post that stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep set for theatrical release this Christmas.
And then set for ordering on Amazon several months later.
Exactly 1/10th of a score and two years ago (4 years total), I started Jimmy’s Daily Planet.
Paying homage to the greatest (albeit fictional) newspaper of all-time, The Daily Planet, this blog was founded on my love of my favorite superhero and disguised human of all-time: Superman and Clark Kent. The scene from Richard Donner’s 1978 classic Superman that showed us Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent walk through the bullpen of The Daily Planet for the first time was the moment I knew I wanted to be a journalist. The chaos, palpable energy and big city, skyscraper setting flew from the screen and landed directly into my impressionable imagination.
These few minutes showing reporters preparing to get the scoop, watching exciting individual and group dynamics (papers scattered, people typing, talking and moving) and hearing creative storytelling pitches is arguably my favorite journalistic hook.
I wrote my first blog post (Eight Years Later & We Look to the Horizon) about what the next Facebook would be in the future. The “next big thing”/new dominant social platform hasn’t arrived yet to eclipse Mark Zuckerberg’s social network from his days at Harvard.
This revelation will be realized, it just hasn’t happened quite yet.
One of the questions in blog #1 was whether or not we are an app generation? That answer has not conclusively been determined since July 13, 2012, but people seem to be embracing a hybrid. This translates to using popular sites and social media platforms (ie-Facebook) while simultaneously choosing a diverse selection of acutely personalized social media apps.
The best answer for July 13, 2016 is that we are a splintered population (or customer base) concerning our use of social media and digital applications (sorry, apps). Individualism rules.
That’s still the question. Not the question that Shakespeare wrote for his brilliant play “Hamlet.” Although, in a way, it sort of is. “To be, or not to be – that is the question.” Who will we be in the near future? How will someone revamp our already complex and extensive communicative grid? How will we change as a result? This very idea is thrilling to cogitate because, as Americans, we know a newfangled innovation will collide with destiny. And destiny is a very good friend with this country.
“I know something big and new is coming because that is the American tradition of big sky-big idea dreamers. Until then, start drawing on your dorm room window and think big, plain and simple.”
That’s the final paragraph of my first blog post on Jimmy’s Daily Planet. I remember writing that four years ago and I still believe it’s true today, whatever the wildly crazy idea or dream may be.
Plain and simple.
Every story has a beginning, middle and an end…
with twists, turns and surprises.
Distinguishing quality between firms/brands (ie- the grocery shelf test) is found on or between known and new. And working with media/journalists is a key dynamic in this task. Perhaps the most critical (and subtle) strategy in working with this relentless force of inquiry is knowing what the fourth estate wants to know and focus on.
One of the ultimate goals of a PR campaign is for its audience to ask about the company and/or products. The media is no different. Instead of focusing exclusively on responses one news release at a time, crafting an interweaving arc for the company sparks next-level intrigue.
Stories are what people want. They want it with their investments, their favorite consumer brands, charities, business partners, celebrities, television shows and movies, books, friends and family.
People read words and financial statements, but they connect with stories. And when this happens, the firm becomes more than a company and the governing philosophy reinforces the balance sheets. The firm transforms into an extension of the customer. Media/journalists want to invest their time in a Steve Jobs and Apple, reporting on the successes and failures alike with curiosity about what will happen next through an optimistic lens.
Steve Jobs > Steve Wozniak in the public eye because his personal journey of ultimately “playing the orchestra” with a hungry and foolish imagination is relatable and inspiring to people.
Strategically developing, promoting, and aggrandizing clients in a variety of ways in the PR universe is a tough, yet highly-rewarding venture. And elevating a company above its competition, in part, requires eye-catching opening statements to the media and the public.
Like a headline.
Information is gathered and presented in a non-stop cycle driven by the engine of speed. The invention of the Internet, and its digital revolution sidekick, has created boundless avenues for this information, with blogs as a primary example. Along with these developments into new media, there has been continuous concern over the future of journalism. Is journalism as we know it fading away? Is journalism, in the traditional sense, keeping up with the more independent, social media oriented times? How does this “wild west” (so to speak) of informal writing, with a myriad of perspectives, consolidate into a more perfect network of trustworthy journalism in the modern era? Who can do it?
Jeff Bezos, of Amazon.com, recently purchased The Washington Post for $250 million. No big deal. Equipped with a successful background in technology, he represents a pivotal shift for the state of journalism in the ever-changing 21st century. His challenge: interweaving formal content with informal content to create a newspaper/news hub that appeals broadly and specifically to both the formal and informal audiences. Formal can be defined as traditional. Think of the likes of David Brooks of The New York Times and Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal. Informal can be defined as this very blog (Jimmy’s Daily Planet, in which its sole writer and creator has a Bachelors Degree in Communications with a Major in Journalism) and other websites that feature writers who individually publish with daily frequency while simultaneously involving popular media elements to their posts and articles.
Quality is not the major issue between the two sides as much as it is style.
Much like any good sitcom, movie or book, there are various characters with unique qualities, motivations and reactions. There need to be strong leads, but without the flamboyant supporting characters, the fun and thrill of the plot suffers. It’s reality. Words like “dull” or “stale” rise to the front of the viewer’s mind. When this happens, people cease to care, no matter the premise or leading voices. The leads provide the foundation and the richness, but every character is pivotal to telling a compelling story. Plot twists and surprises are always great content drivers as well.
No matter how small or seemingly “goofy,” any good puzzle needs a variety of pieces. Imagine the “Back to the Future” trilogy without the dumb-witted responses from Biff (“make like a tree and get out of here!”) or the eccentric hair, clothes and personality of Dr. Emmett Brown (“Doc”).
How good would those movies have been? Would there have been a second or third movie?
In the case of these two examples, recall that the content and quality always remained high with these characters. The writing was also supreme. It’s a balance that requires skill and intelligence, but it can and has been done with great precision and enjoyment.
The point is that when everything was put together, including the characters, sets and the undeniably cool time machine (“Wait a minute, wait a minute Doc…are you telling me that you built a time machine, out of a DeLorean!?”) the “Back to the Future” trilogy became an American favorite in the eighties that remains popular today. The film’s stock is still soaring as high as the time traveling DeLorean.
Two words to describe the three movies are classic and cool.
Bezos has the pioneering task of combining the traditional pillars of The Washington Post, with its distinguished staff, with informal staff members and their new content. The Post has the leads, but what it needs are vibrant colors that will attract viewers from near and far.
Good content remains a desired asset in our free society, but the style is changing. Bezos has his hands full with his decision to buy one of the premier newspapers in the United States. His personal reputation grants him space and opportunity to design his grand vision for the new newspaper. The answer to how he will enact his transformation, however large or small, is reserved within the brainstorming mind of Bezos himself for the time being. In the back of our heads though, we all know the great script he wrote for Amazon.com…
It will be fascinating to see his ideas come to fruition when the season’s right. Whatever they are, they will send shock-waves throughout the media universe.
The two words that Jeff Bezos will almost certainly hope people will use to describe his new Washington Post are classic and cool.
And if he can achieve this, then he will have successfully brought journalism back to the future.