Remembering ‘The Paper,’ The Classic 1994 Film About A Time When Journalism Was Still Fun

Cultural Critic

Universal Pictures


The Paper, a Ron Howard film about a day in the life of a New York City tabloid starring Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Marisa Tomei, Jason Alexander, and lots of other really good actors, came out in March of 1994. I know this because I saw it on opening weekend. I was 16, a sophomore in high school, and already working as a columnist for my local daily newspaper, along with being an editor at my school paper. If this movie had a core demographic, it was little ole dorky me.

The Paper to me was like what Top Gun was to wannabe military pilots, or what Ocean’s 11 was to would-be casino thieves. A fantasy that played like a recruitment film. A veritable pep rally for a profession. I had decided several years earlier that I was going to be a journalist when I grew up, so I was predisposed to love The Paper, which, of course, I inevitably did.

Before The Paper, I had seen only one newspaper movie, the newspaper movie, All The Presidents Men. But that movie is about two supermen, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who changed the course of American history. The Paper is just about regular journalists covering a story — about two kids mistakenly arrested for murder — which just happens to be big on that day. It wasn’t a documentary, obviously, because it starred Batman. But it felt more real, like something I could be a part of. (The film’s co-writer, Stephen Koepp, was a former editor at Time. He also attended the same no-name midwestern journalism school I eventually attended. Shout out, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire!)

This week, I watched The Paper again for the first time in years, ahead of the film’s 25th anniversary. It’s a movie that’s fitfully remembered, mostly by journalists who saw it at an impressionable age (like me). I still really like it, but for completely different reasons. In ’94, The Paper made me excited about hanging out in a newsroom with cranky and neurotic but ultimately lovable and whipsmart eccentrics who were out to change the world for the better. Oh, to work in a place so full of action, where the pace is so relentlessly quick and exciting!

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