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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"The Paper" exposes seedy underbelly of high school journalism

It's hard for me to be objective about MTV's latest reality show "The Paper" because it hits pretty close to home. (It may come as no shock, but I was of those kids in high school who put their nerdiness to work in the cuthroat world of high school newspaper journalism).

But that's not the only reason why I love this show. If you're not watching, you should be, because MTV is finally reflecting a demographic that can't be found on "The Hills" or "My Super Sweet 16" -- the power-hungry pseudo nerd -- and it makes for compellingly awkward television. Nerds are the new cool, anyway, what with the rise of Judd Apatow's nerd herd and the success of shows like "The Office." It was only a matter of time someone seized on the golden opportunity to translate that to reality television, and who better than MTV?

Six episodes into the eight-episode arc and tensions are raging between editor-in-chief Amanda Lorber and her clique-happy subordinates at the award-winning "The Circuit" that serves Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Fla. There's open talk of a mutiny. Amanda has been reduced to asking her dog for advice and the staff's advisor, Mrs. Weiss, to instituting a new seating arrangement. It's the high school newspaper equivalent of an organizational meltdown. (Laugh, if you must, but I can tell you tales about the great mutiny of '98 that rocked the foundations of my school newspaper. They're not pretty).

Hate her or love her, Amanda is the finest hero-villain of her age, a 17-year-old Dr. Gregory House-in-the-making. She's ambitious, ruthless and, quite frankly, weird as all hell. Props to the producers for recognizing that making her the focus of the show gives it a driving, dramatic force without scripting it.

Opinions about the show range from those who wonder if the show can save journalism's sagging reputation to those whose relief at "The Paper's" lack of sex and booze is obvious. Whether your motivation is to figure out if Amanda, Alex, Adam, Giana and the gang become the next Woodward and Bernstein or who's been badmouthing whom, "The Paper" has enough drama to appeal to all our inner nerds.

"The Paper" airs on Mondays at 9:30 p.m. on MTV. Full episodes are available on the Web site.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

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The great mutiny of '98. Please tell us more.

-- Tom

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At May 21, 2008 at 11:52 AM  

It wasn't so much of a mutiny as a coup d'etat against our editor in chief. Mainly driven by his ex-girlfriend. It made the French Revolution look like a garden tea party. More details will be made available in my best-selling memoirs to be published.


By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At May 23, 2008 at 10:31 AM  

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