"Ha ha! Your medium is dying!" -- Nelson, The Simpsons.
When an animated character on a broadcast network show mocks your medium, you know you're really in trouble. The departure of film critics from print outlets, including most recently Nathan Lee from The Village Voice and David Ansen from Newsweek, has inspired many observers to ponder the future of film criticism. The bigger story is that the newspaper industry as a whole has been plagued by declining profits since the turn of the century, with hundreds of workers accepting buy-outs or being laid off in the last few years.
Manny Mendoza, a newspaperman since 1979, saw the writing on the wall and accepted a buy-out offer from the Dallas Morning News a couple of years ago. Bitten by the moviemaking bug, he wanted to make a documentary about local muralists, but when he enlisted the assistance of veteran filmmaker Mark Birnbaum, Birnbaum convinced him that they should instead make a film about what was happening to the print medium. The result of their efforts, Stop the Presses: The American Newspaper in Peril, had its world premiere at AFI Dallas this week, and it's an absorbing account that should appeal to anyone concerned about the future of democracy.