Two related items: Tonight, MTV premieres a show about teenagers who actually look like the teenagers who watch MTV, as opposed to teenagers who look like the cast of a TV soap. The Paper is a reality show about the staff of a Florida high-school newspaper, the first episode of which is not about boyfriends or sex or throwing a multimillion-dollar sweet sixteen party but about the competition to be named editor-in-chief. Unlike Made—where kids get the chance to be made over or realize a dream—the dorkiness of being a school-journalism geek is, on The Paper, not something to be escaped but something to fully embrace; the world of the Cypress Bay High School Circuit, with its power struggles and competitions, is accepted on its own terms. It’s a promising show, and worth checking out.
Second item (hat tip to TV Tattle): Nina Garcia is reportedly losing her job at Elle magazine, which TMZ speculates could put her Project Runway judgeship in jeopardy. Garcia is not the first magazine employee to land a job in reality TV—there’s Food & Wine’s Gail Simmons on Top Chef, for instance, and the number of fashion editors and photographers who have landed on America’s Next Top Model. Even TV Guide’s critic Matt Roush parlayed his job into a role judging America’s Next Producer.
All of which makes me think: It’s weird how much TV venerates jobs in journalism when the stock of those jobs is dropping so much among journalists and the people who hire them. On the one hand, practically every day brings news of another newspaper beginning a massive round of buyouts and layoffs; another magazine going under or decimating its staff; another TV news division cutting back on jobs, merging operations with another network or getting rid of a disappointing anchor. (OK, all those last examples happen to be CBS News, but it’s just their turn in the bad-news cycle right now.)
And yet on TV, a journalism pedigree is apparently so important to the credibility of a reality-judging panel that losing the Elle post could put Garcia’s TV job in question. Watch any channel and you’d get the impression that journalism—magazine work in particular—is the most glamorous and desirable job in the professional world. Lauren on The Hills works at Teen Vogue; characters in Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle are magazine publishers; FX built an entire series around Courteney Cox as a tabloid editor on Dirt.
The lesson, I suppose, is that everyone wants to work in magazines, or newspapers, or TV news. It’s just that no one wants to buy, read or watch them—except on a soap opera or a cable reality show. Journalism students, plan your careers accordingly.