Of Local Journalism
At the dawn of the 20th century, Salisbury was undergoing a metamorphosis. The iron industry was a fading memory and the railroad was facilitating easier travel, transforming the town into the vacation and second-home Mecca it was to become.
Three years earlier, on August 14, 1897, the evolving community was strengthened when the first issue of the Lakeville Journal came out. In the absence of radio and television—not to mention endless social media updates—its front page was dedicated to stories of national and international importance—gold seekers facing hardship in Alaska; seven lives lost in a grain elevator explosion in Chicago, President and Mrs. William McKinley visiting Vermont—but it also covered matters of local interest. Readers would learn of the “horse dentist” who skipped Lakeville leaving behind many debts, eloping with a pretty waitress in Sheffield, as well as that Ore Hill mine, closed for several weeks, would reopen soon.
The paper that started so hopefully in that long-ago August has become a minor miracle, surviving 125 years of social and economic change, reporting the minutiae of births, deaths, marriages and graduations at the same time it delves into the major issues facing the Northwest Connecticut towns.
The first 125 years of this venerable institution will be celebrated in August and September with a special film series at the Millerton Moviehouse. The four films selected for the series—All the President’s Men, His Girl Friday, The Killing Fields and Citizen Kane—depict journalists and newspaper journalism in different ways. Each was pivotal in its era, both in terms of its story and from the perspective of filmmaking. All remain culturally relevant.
“It’s funny because when you speak to people about newspapers, their response is, ‘Oh, newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur,’” said Janet Manko, publisher of the Lakeville Journal. “But when they see these movies, they become engaged with them. These movies bring to the forefront how exciting newspapers are.”
Consultant Helen Seslowsky, vice president of Transmedia Consulting, said the idea of celebrating the long history of the local newspaper grew out of the Lakeville Journal 125th Year Anniversary Committee. “They had the idea that it would be really fun to have something at the Moviehouse,” she said. “We thought the local newspaper and the local theater both serve the needs of the community. Both are gathering places: one physical, the other not. Between us, we came up with a selection of films from different eras that celebrate the role of the newspaper.”
“We had a longer list but some of them we couldn’t get,” Seslowsky revealed. “Fortunately, these were all on our first list.”
Along with the screenings, there will be introductions before the films and Q&As after for some. “We wanted to kick off with All the President’s Men,” said Seslowski. The movie tells the tale of two young investigative reporters from The Washington Post—Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (played by Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford) who took on the Nixon administration to expose the corruption of Watergate. “We wanted to get Carl Bernstein to introduce it but, because it is the anniversary of Watergate, that was impossible. Instead Janet Manko will introduce the film,” she said.
The following film, His Girl Friday, is a 1940-vintage rom-com starring Cary Grant and Rosaline Russell. Its storyline follows a hard-charging New York newspaper editor, Walter Burns, (Grant) tries to derail his ex-wife’s plan to marry a less-than-impressive insurance agent. The wife, investigative reporter Hildy Johnson (Russell), is lured back to the newsroom with a story about the impending execution of convicted murderer Earl Williams. The work rekindles her reportorial instincts when she discovers Williams may be innocent.
Sandy Padwe, associate professor with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, will introduce the film.
There will be a short intermission for the Labor Day weekend before the series resumes on September 10th, with The Killing Fields. The acclaimed 1984 film, which tells the story of reporter Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterson) on assignment covering the Cambodian Civil War, received seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor for Waterston. It won three Oscars, as well as garnering 12 BAFTA nominations and eight wins.
“Of course, we wanted The Killing Fields because of Sam Waterston,” Seslowski said. Waterston, who lives locally and who, with Meryl Streep, is honorary co-chair of the 125th Year Anniversary Committee, will appear in a conversation with journalist Richard Schlesinger who recently retired from CBS and also lives in the region.
The series concludes September 14th with Citizen Kane, Orson Welles’ 1941 classic about a reporter’s inquiry into the rise and fall of publishing magnate Charles Foster Kane and the meaning of Kane’s final word: “Rosebud.”
Professor Joshua Glick of Bard College School of Film and Electronic Arts will introduce the film and share his insights into why many consider this to be one of the greatest movies ever made and a milestone in motion picture technique. “He’s got an incredible depth of information,” Seslowski said. “He will be telling people what to look out for; what makes it what some people feel is the greatest film ever made.”
Screenings take place at 6:30 PM but guests are encouraged to come early to enjoy a drink in the bar and mingle and chat with the guest speakers before the programs begin.
Tickets for individual films are $16, but all four can be enjoyed for a package rate of $60. “To see these films as a package, the way we have laid them out, will give a fascinating view of what newspapers are like,” said Seslowski.
“We're honored to present this film series to celebrate such a monumental milestone for The Lakeville Journal.” said Moviehouse owner David Maltby. “The paper was a fixture in my house growing up and its continued popularity proves there’s still a real need for local newspapers who, like cinemas, have had a really tough time in recent years. This is why both of us have recently turned to the non-profit model to keep going.”
“A great newspaper and a local movie theater energize and connect a community in many of the same ways,” added co-owner Chelsea Altman. “We hope to see everyone in the community come out and support the cinema and celebrate the newspaper with us. We’ve selected four terrific films and have an exciting lineup of speakers and we'd really love to see a good crowd.”
For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.themoviehouse.net