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PBS love letter to newspapers

December 5, 2013

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Philadelphia Daily News reporters Barbara Laker (left) and Wendy Ruderman as the Pulitizer Prize was announced.

If you love journalism, love newspapers, you’ll find this film, which is making its TV debut in the PBS December lineup, well worth your while. I can’t say you’ll enjoy it, but it is well worth the 83 minutes it will take to watch.  One warning: It may renew your sense of pride and dash it at the same time.

Black & White and Dead All Over is a documentary film that takes an in-depth look at the newspaper industry as it struggles to remain financially viable.  The film features journalists including Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and David Carr of the New York Times to explain the financial death spiral for print news.

But the most elegant and compelling story comes from Philadelphia Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman who took on a dangerous and corrupt narcotics squad in Philadelphia, a story that earned them a Pulitzer Prize.

The film is about more than newspapers, it’s about journalism and the ability to find compelling news and right wrongs.

‘Journalism is just
one human being
connecting to another.’

And even though the story told by Black & White and Dead All Over does introduce the idea that good journalism can come from online newsrooms (ProPublica), it deifies print culture.

The question we hear over and over is ‘If the American newspaper dies, who will conduct investigative journalism, who will hold public officials accountable?’ Black & White doesn’t have a solid answer, but it does a decent job of showing how we got here and an excellent job of igniting newspaper nostalgia.

The show debuts on PBS on Dec. 18. But if you have time, you can watch it now on Thirteen.org : Black & White and Dead All Over


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