Tuesday, March 31, 2009

He's the perfect example of that dying race, unpressed gentleman of the press...

It feels like I've had this entry sitting, half-finished, on my computer for almost a month. Sorry, guys; school's been eating all my free time lately, and just when I think I've found a way to make it work to my advantage, it goes and devours some more. Anyway...

This blog started as a combination of my personal and academic pursuits. Through sheer coincidence, those two parts of my life are crossing paths here once again. I spent much of one Sunday, a few weeks ago, reading The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel for my Evaluating Writing class. I woke up the next morning to find my school closed, and a journalism-themed marathon on TCM. How's that for timing?

I sat down that afternoon wondering, dork that I am, if I'd be able to pick out any of Kovach and Rosenstiel's lessons in the careers of these fictional characters. One of the issues in journalism, though skimmed over in the book, jumped out at me immediately in Teacher's Pet. The question alluded to by these writers and posed by the movie script is whether and to what extent education is necessary, or even desirable, in journalism.

By the time Kovach and Rosenstiel's book was published in 2001, journalism schools had long been a part of the business. Its effectiveness, however, was not universally accepted among journalists. Yes, Jim Gannon is alive and well, although the nature of journalism has undergone some changes since this film was made. The fundamental argument made by Clark Gable's character seems to still hold water to a certain extent, even today. On page 155, Kovach and Rosenstiel make note of "the degree to which journalists, compared with other professionals, failed to communicate the lessons of one generation to the next." They go on to state that "hairdressers have more continuing education than journalists." I'm sure my journalism-major friends would dispute this, but it's an interesting idea. What ultimately constitutes an "education" in journalism: the Poynter Institute, or the School of Hard Knocks?

In the film, James Gannon firmly believes in the latter. A high school drop-out who worked his way up to editor of the city paper, Gannon at first holds all education in pure contempt -- "The important thing is he's had no experience," is how he dismisses his rival for Erica Stone's affections, the pretentious Dr. Hugo Pine. "He didn't start at the bottom and work up. That's the only way you can learn." His opinion on the matter is made very clear early in the film, when a distraught mother asks him to fire her son so that the boy will go back to school. Gannon ignores her, confident the boy will fare much better under his wing. Shortly thereafter, he discovers a certain journalism teacher has a particularly low opinion of him and decides to do some undercover reporting, for his own edification of course.

Miss Stone, played by Doris Day, represents everything that Gannon abhors: "Amateurs teaching amateurs how to be amateurs." A former reporter and the daughter of a well-respected editor, Erica Stone decided to teach "for the same reason that occasionally a musician wants to be a conductor; he wants to hear a hundred people play music the way he hears it." She believes that carefully training reporters in the art of explaining not just what happened but why and how is the only way for print journalism to overcome the blow it was dealt by television newscasts. When a mild-mannered older gentleman who introduces himself as James Gallagher appears in her classroom, she sees in him the potential to be a great reporter -- if only he had a little bit more schooling.

Naturally, Gannon-as-Gallagher attempts to be as antagonistic as possible towards the unsuspecting Erica without actually giving himself away. And naturally, this being a romantic comedy, he finds himself falling in love with her despite her wildly different approach to the job he's spent much of his life married to. His growing attraction to Erica opens his mind to her side of the debate, and he even comes to question his own self-worth, especially after a night on the town with his well-educated competition. He begins to think that formal education may very well be the best path to becoming a journalist -- until he sees what a well-educated editor who lacks reporting experience can do to a front page. Unfortunately this boost to his self-esteem comes courtesy of Erica's late father, which has the expected consequences for their relationship, but it also leads to interesting conclusions from a journalistic perspective. Good instincts, after all, can't be taught.

Neither the film nor the debate ends there, but I won't spoil the ending. Everyone should see this movie; it's a hilarious romantic comedy if you aren't interested in journalism, and if you are, it raises some important points that are still valid today. In fact, with the rise of amateur internet-based reporting and the uncertain future of print journalism, this film may become even more relevant with time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

So they were turning after all, those cameras...

Nicole started this questionnaire, and I thought I'd play too.

Who was the first actor/actress that you were first interested in?
Bette Davis. Last year on what would have been her 100th birthday, TCM aired a 24-hour marathon of her films. I had only just gotten into classic films at that point and had only seen her in All About Eve and Jezebel, so I tuned in to see what all the fuss was about. I ended up leaving it on from 10 a.m. to 4 a.m.

How old were you when you really began watching old movies?

What was the first old movie that caught your interest?
Penny Serenade

Who is currently your favorite actor?
I'm not sure I really have one. I guess I tend to gravitate toward Cary Grant.

Who is currently your favorite actress?
Bette Davis

What is your favorite old movie and why?
All About Eve. The script and the performances are all absolutely dazzling.

How many old movies do you own?
Probably about 35. I don't have them with me, so it's hard to count them by memory.

How many old movies do you have recorded/ on the dvr?
None. I don't have a DVR, and my VCR is hooked up to a TV that doesn't get TCM.

If you could go back in time and visit any actor/actress, who would it be?
I'm not sure I would go. I think it would shatter the mystique of these big classic Hollywood stars.

Who is one actor/actress that you want to know more about?
Lately I've been curious about Greta Garbo.

What film could you watch over and over again?
All About Eve. I think at this point even my roommate has it memorized.

What is your favorite Hitchcock film?
Notorious. I wish Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman had done more films together; they were great here and in Indiscreet.

Who is your favorite director?
This is a tough call. Probably Frank Capra.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Excuse me, kids, I've won a prize...

To celebrate TCM's 31 Days of Oscar, Raquelle recently held a contest to give away TCM U notebooks. My name was one of those pulled from her magic hat, and this afternoon I received this lovely prize in the mail!

Excuse the weird flash at the top; the cover's nice and shiny! Inside, it has a couple of pages with little descriptions of each "college" in the TCM University.

Then the rest is regular notebook paper with the TCM U logo at the top of each page. I'm thinking I might use this for a classic-film scrapbook of some sort; naturally there will be more pictures if and when this happens.

Many, many thanks to Raquelle!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I will regard this great honor not so much as an award for what I have achieved, but a standard to hold against what I have yet to accomplish...

The lovely and talented Wendymoon has gifted me with the Premio Dardos award. I'm really quite honored. For those just tuning in, here's what that pretty picture up there means:

The Dardos Award is given for cultural, literary, and personal values in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing appreciation and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.

By accepting this award, it's now my privilege to turn the spotlight onto five other bloggers. I'd like to encourage you all to check out All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!, Cinema Splendor, Hollywood Dreamland, Silents and Talkies, and Classic Hollywood Nerd. Some of these blogs have received this already, but I think they're all deserving so hopefully those authors will forgive the repetition.

I promise I'll start actually trying to live up to this real soon. I've got a post in the works right now that actually involves ~research~ (yes, I'm getting quite fancy over here) but I'm hoping to finish it up within the next couple of days. And of course, now that I've said that I have to...