The story of the newspaper industry in the U.S., for anyone who has been part of it, is one of drama, heroes, villains, triumph and tragedy. But is it worthy of a feature-length documentary film? Adam Chadwick thinks so.
Chadwick, a New York Times veteran, is helping produce a decade-by-decade look at the major events in technology, unions, advertising and corporatization which has led to the demise of many papers. “Fit to Print – A Documentary Film on the U.S. Newspaper Industry” is currently in production, but you can see a trailer of it here.
I asked Chadwick how the project got started and what are the plans for marketing and distribution. Here is what he told me via email:
I was working at the NYT for over 3 years and began to sit down with various staffers and reporters who were all expressing their concerns regarding two things: A) the trouble facing the industry B) how it is almost impossible for them to speak to anyone outside of the institution in expressing their opinions and concerns. A deep concern wrapped over with red-tape essentially. The NYT staffers still choose to speak out (as well as various reporters from other national newspapers including the Washington Post, Newsday, Baltimore Sun, LA Times, USA Today, Rocky Mountain News, Seattle P.I. and many others). So I began to collect their interviews over the course of the year, and from there it began to escalate and the story of the U.S. newspaper industry took full shape.
I don’t want to give too much away, but we are focusing on the historical perspective of the newspaper industry in turmoil dating back to the decline in the afternoon dailies and transition from hot to cold typesetting. Decade-by-decade, we will detail major events with technology, unions, advertising and corporatization which led to the demise of many papers. We are also embedded with investigative reporters, showing what is taking place out in the field right now in real time.
The marketing and distribution plan is still up in the air. We are still looking for funding and sponsorship to help us complete the film and get it out to the public. Ideally, this film is meant for film festivals and broadcast television. We just hope that an institute or organization will help us complete the travel and editing we need to get this done in order to make this a great film.
I think one of the challenges Chadwick faces is making a film that comes off as something more substantial than a bunch of newspaper journalists lamenting the changes in technology and society that have weakened their industry. I hope he will reflect some of the responsibility that newspaper publishers, editors and yes, journalists, should bear for the current state of the newspaper industry. Many of the wounds have been self-inflicted, after all.
We all know how important newspapers have been in the U.S. and we’d love to see them return to strength. I hope Chadwick gets the funding he needs to finish the film. It is an important story that needs to be told.