“Jobs? You’re an after school club.”
Print is dead and apparently this isn’t only true in the outside world where magazines and newspapers are shuttering and/or moving to a more robust online presence. Of course schools would find themselves facing the same problem. After all, it’s the latest generations’ penchant for using the internet as a source of daily headlines that has more or less catalyzed the transition. So when cost saving measures become number one on the to-do list of middle school principals the nation over, shuttering a paper and ink business for digital pixels is an easy solution. It shouldn’t meet any backlash either considering a blog-style format would prove a simple evolution and a boon for readership. Even so, some can’t let go.
Zachary Lapierre‘s Dirty Books (co-written with Ian Everhart) is the tale of one such holdout. When Dr. Bradley (Timothy J. Cox) calls weekly gazette editor-in-chief David Burrough (Noah Bailey) into his office to explain that the newspaper wouldn’t continue into the new school year, he couldn’t have predicted how opposed to the decision this youngster would prove. David is wholeheartedly against the move thinking himself a journalist with integrity—a proponent of the written word in a haughty, elitist way that believes online articles are somehow inferior. It becomes his mission to save the establishment he has earned the right to call his own by lighting a fire underneath his reporters to find a story able to wow the student body and rekindle relevance.
But just as David thinks himself above self-published nonsense unfettered by editorial oversight, proper grammar, or meaningful discourse, he also feels superiority above certain topics like sports: “it write itself”. So while he refuses to even entertain an story sports writer Charlotte (Ansley Berg) attempts to pitch, an idea meant as a joke from friend and confidential informant Owens (Isaiah Lapierre) about making something up sticks. But in order for a lie to be believed by the masses it must hold some semblance of truth. This means David can create the news, but only if he also breathes life into the topic he’s reporting on. Suddenly a prankster begins running amok and no one knows whom it can be despite speculation growing uncontrollably.
This short brings up issues of legitimacy in the news and what should or shouldn’t be considered newsworthy. Just because David’s reporting on his own secretive actions doesn’t necessarily make the results less real. These pranks are occurring, witnesses see the evidence, and the story captivates the minds of everyone in school—faculty included. This tiny newspaper that seemed inconsequential has defied the odds and become the single source of information on the year’s most fascinating mystery. Integrity and morality have disappeared, but they’ve been replaced by excitement. It’s a witty satire of our country’s abysmal state of the media screaming opinions as fact rather than finding actual concrete evidence that perfectly projects the farce onto school children.
One of our leading presidential candidates is a child so the juxtaposition couldn’t be more apt. Gossip reigns supreme as it’s become about hits and clicks—the irony here being that David’s methods would kill online—rather than truth. There are so many voices to wade through that the loudest and most outrageous rise to the surface. Some of us still want an authority like Charlotte to strive towards delivering real stories floating out there waiting to be unearthed, but sadly the majority craves the car wrecks. And those caught manipulating news into hollow entertainment like David? Well they get a slap on the wrist and a smile. “You’ve done wrong and we caught you, but we really want to know: what’s next?”