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In this past week’s issue, Mark Athitakis finds some major faults with the final season of The Wire. His take is tough and commendable especially considering the glut of Wire analysis all over the web. Some of the web stuff has been on point (see this New York Observer piece by a former CP editor). And some of it is just fine for a weekly post-show fix (see Slate’s coverage).
But what is perhaps most annoying to me about this final season is David Simon‘s juicing the Baltimore Sun story arc with a Stephen Glass character. It may all be based on Simon’s experiences(!) and actual gripes(!) and an actual (allegedly) shit reporter (!)—but it just feels like a crutch and only tangentially related to the major problems with Baltimore’s daily: budget cuts, layoffs, “more with less.” The inclusion of the Glass character just feels a little too much like regular TV or maybe basic cable TV.
Simon has more than enough articulate anger stored up that I bet he could have made the layoffs, budget cuts, and declining circ interesting without adding that character. It has already been done. The Paper—a documentary released last year—addresses what happens when declining circulation and perhaps declining relevance hit Penn State’s college newspaper. Full disclosure: I lived and worked at that paper for nine semesters back in the day.
The low budget documentary heroically stuck to one simple story line: how do the editors stem the paper’s steep declines in circulation? And just as heroically, the editors seriously took on the issue without completely selling out. The film’s storyline proved riveting, touching, and hilarious. And it didn’t pander. The film’s trailer gets at some of this true life drama and is worth a look:
The documentary’s website offers short clips as well. Anyway, I still love you David Simon.