David Layton and Mike Nicholson announce the first ever documentary on legendary newspaper editor Gene Roberts. In 1972, Roberts left a position with the New York Times to join the struggling Philadelphia Inquirer as Executive Editor. In less than a decade, he would transform what was possibly the worst big-city paper in the country, into one of the very best. With the media under fire today, it seems fitting to look back at the golden age of journalism and to see how a free press is critical to a functioning democracy. The story of The Newspaperman is perhaps the best example of what can happen when the right ingredients for strong, aggressive journalism come together at the right place and time.
Gene Roberts covered some of the most important stories of the mid-20th century – the Kennedy assassination, civil rights in the South, and the Vietnam War. But it was as Executive Editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer that he came into his own. His innovative methods and intense commitment to fearless and substantive daily journalism made him a legend in the world of newspapers.
Before Roberts, the Inquirer had not won a single Pulitzer Prize in its 150 years of existence – but in 1975, just three years later, the paper won its first Pulitzer for National Reporting. Over the next 15 years, it would win 16 more Pulitzers, and many other prestigious awards as Roberts used every resource at his disposal to deliver a rich chronicle of the world around them to Philadelphians. What he and his staff accomplished changed a city and influenced an entire industry.
The Newspaperman intends to show what can be done when smart, hard-working people believe in the mission of delivering solid news to their community – A fascinating chronicle of an important moment in American history, but more than that, the Inquirer became a place filled with talented people who genuinely appreciated one another and knew how to have fun (often had at Roberts’ expense – the newsroom affectionately nicknamed him “the Frog” for his squat, jowly features and on his 46th birthday released 46 frogs into his office). The Newspaperman is about building an amazing team. It’s about leadership and perseverance. It’s about scores of talented people spreading their wings and reaching for excellence together. And it’s about how great journalism told “without fear or favor” is vital to the very fabric of our society.
“Now more than ever, we feel this story has larger ramifications for our democracy. Deconstructing the era of the Roberts Inquirer can serve as a vital primer. What are the conditions needed for journalism to flourish? What qualities of leadership are required? And how can good journalism inform our nation's citizenry in the face of fake news, misinformation, and the “post-truth” climate in which we currently find ourselves?”
– David Layton & Mike Nicholson
To complete the documentary, Layton and Nicholson are running an ambitious Kickstarter campaign offering contributors rewards such as original lobby cards and posters from legendary films, such as All the President’s Men, as well collectors’ items from prestigious national publications. The link to the Kickstarter, which includes the story behind the making of the film, can be found here: http://bit.ly/thenewspaperman