We media types seem to be obsessed–not quite to a creepy extent–with MTV’s The Paper, a “reality” show about a high school newspaper in Broward County, Florida. And I’ll admit to being one of them. I never worked on my high school paper (that was mostly the province of a classmate I barely knew who seriously used the byline–granted, based on his real name–I.P. Lakes), but I did devote 1998 almost entirely to my undergraduate newspaper’s weekly entertainment magazine. So I know what the publication obsession is like. Most of my best friends from college were from the Daily Pennsylvanian or 34th Street, the magazine I edited.
I don’t see myself in the characters, but I do see some potentially pernicious caricatures. Chuck Barney pointed out the fairly obvious “bitch” characterization of Amanda Lorber, the editor of the paper. But I don’t think there’s much reason to hope that this will drive kids into j-schools. The paper is almost absent in the paper. You could almost substitute the Latin club for The Circuit, and have the same ambitious, smart, nerdy kids jockeying for control so that it will look good on their college apps.
But these kids aren’t just smart. They’re white. They’re wealthy. And what’s even more subversive, they’re surprisingly Jewish. They’re Jewish in a pretty secular way–no one’s running around in a skullcap and a prayer shawl–but they toss off casual references to remembering Hebrew school. I’d like to think that this would help show the world (i.e., MTV viewers) that Jewish kids are just like any other, but as a half Jew myself, I can’t help but wonder if this will just perpetuate Jews-in-the-media stereotypes instead.
Am I really concerned? Probably not. Will I still watch Amanda scheme and the rest of them scheme against Amanda? Yeah, I will. In the end, will it matter much one way or the other? Again, probably not.
But media types love nothing more than to watch and write about media types. Just look at me.
But frankly, I think they should move The Circuit completely online. It would more accurately reflect the world they’re going to go into–if they go into journalism at all.