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Is Hollywood’s Love Affair with Journalism Over?

And why it matters more than you might think.

Tony Silber By Tony Silber
02/27/2009 -17:07 PM

Will young people gravitate to a business defined by bankruptcy, decline—and, likely, fewer films about it?

Movies over time have usually depicted the magazine and newspaper industries with a touch of glamour, power or idealism. For some recent examples, think “In Good Company,” “13 Going on 30” and “The Devil Wears Prada.” Then there’s the greatest movie of all time, “Citizen Kane,” and the movie that launched 10,000 careers, “All the President’s Men.”

Yes, there’s the occasional “Absence of Malice,” about journalistic abuse of power, or “American Beauty,” where the troubled Kevin Spacey character is a trade magazine editor. But generally these industries and the journalism profession get positive treatment.

And that reflects the popular culture.  The professions that make up our business have historically been appealing.

And Hollywood’s love affair with journalism has for decades helped feed talented people into the business. Smart, ambitious editors and salespeople wanted to be the top editor at Newsweek, or the New Yorker, or Ad Age. They wanted to be the writer in “Almost Famous,” or even like Mr. Big in “Sex and the City.”

But is it true now?

In the last 10 days alone, this page has covered the plummeting profit margins of publicly traded magazine companies. It has covered the staggering decline in fourth-quarter ad sales in b-to-b media. It has covered the cancellation or dramatic downsizing of two events, including the crown jewel of the glitzy, mass-consumer part of the business, the American Magazine Conference.

On the newspaper side, the Rocky Mountain News went out of business today after 150 years of publishing. Newspapers in Philadelphia filed for bankruptcy. A paper in Seattle is teetering.

Newspapers everywhere are not just troubled, but nearing oblivion.

So what’s the appeal of this business for the high school kid just heading into college? Who the hell wants to get into an industry perceived as in decline? And if we can’t attract talented people, what are the implications of that?

My take? The image of a profession in pop culture has a huge effect on whether young people choose to pursue a career in it. That means print media is in trouble.

Maybe they’ll make a movie about it.

[image: IMDB]

Tony Silber By Tony Silber --

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