Meanwhile in a completely different series, some newspaper men are standing outside a building, complaining about the dire straits print journalism finds itself in these days. I kid, I kid -- we're getting an introduction to the world of Media, which joins Labor Unions, Government, and Public Schools in The Wire's Which Institution Is Failing You Now? world tour. And let's get this out there right now: I'm very ambivalent about this storyline, because your friendly recapper spent a good portion of his working life in the newspaper game -- first at a decent weekly in the middle of nowhere, then at a shitbag suburban daily, and finally at a national paper that I'm still somewhat convinced was printed each day as some part of ill-considered dare on the part of the publisher. At any rate, I tend to find movie and TV portrayals of my one-time profession unbearable to watch, either because of the howling inaccuracies made in the name of dramatic license or because the issues raised, while doubtlessly entertaining to Joe and Jane Viewer, are dull and commonplace to yours truly. I am fairly confident that Simon and Company are clever enough to avoid these pitfalls, but you never know.
So this is the office of the Baltimore Sun, and, among the gentlemen complaining about bureau closures and layoffs and buyouts over their smoke break is Gus Haynes, the city desk editor, played by the delightful Clark Johnson. See? We're already off to a good start. We could have been stuck with Michael Keaton. Anyhow, things at the Sun are just about like they are in the rest of the city these days, which is to say, on the brink of utter collapse. Much like our friends at City Hall and in the police force, this clutch of Sun staffers is wondering where the next round of cutbacks will take place. "Be a shame if they have to get rid of all those twentysomethings in the newsroom," says one guy. "Klebanow sure do like to hire them sweet young things, don't he?" Haynes agrees. "Twenty-three, twenty-four years old, model-thin, long straight hair, and big traffic-light eyes," the first guy leers. "Yeah, and half of 'em can't write a lick, can they?" another one complains. It's not uncomfortable to hear middle-aged, middle-management types talk about their female underlings this way. Not at all. "Someday, I want to find out what it feels like to work for a real newspaper," the first guy mutters. I used to say the same thing myself until I left that world for the much more life-affirming gig of editing erotic short fiction for a mid-market porno magazine. I've never looked back.