By Samantha Bennett
We keep hearing that print journalism is dead, that no one reads it, that it’s irrelevant and dull and deservedly outmoded. And yet … somehow, your local multiplex didn’t get that memo.
In “State of Play,” Russell Crowe plays a crusty investigative reporter who goes after a story with good old-fashioned shoe leather and determination. He actually takes notes with a pen. And he spends a lot of the movie schooling a twittering blogger in Newsgathering 101.
But that’s fiction.
In “The Soloist,” Robert Downey Jr. plays real-life Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez in the true story of how a column about a homeless, mentally ill music prodigy became a crusade and touched a city.
These films serve as a reminder, perhaps not quite too late, that good journalism matters. Reporting matters. And columnists, who are not just observers and commentators but also reporters, really do make a difference in the communities they chronicle.
Every day, columnists are taking buyouts, retiring early, getting laid off. They’re not being replaced. Who’s going to illuminate the corners that have gone dark — forgotten or hidden or overlooked — if the columnists are gone?
The National Society of Newspaper Columnists is keeping the light on. And if you want to meet the real Steve Lopez, we’ve got him at our conference in Ventura, Calif., in June. Go to www.columnists.com for more info, and links to a lot of bright spots and true stories.