Clooney, Campbell, and Peterson network over ‘Network’

NickClooney.jpg WJLA’s Arch Campbell and Gordon Peterson were the guests for last night’s Reel Journalism with Nick Clooney Film Series event, a co-production of American University’s School of Communication and the Newseum.

Asked to select their favorite journalism film, the longtime D.C. news men picked the TV-news skewering “Network”. While host Nick Clooney (father of George), distinguished journalist in residence at AU and the Newseum, jokingly referred to the 1976 classic as a documentary, the film hits eerily close to home for those who have worked in TV news.

Peterson recalled that after he first saw the film in 1976, a colleague described the film as absurd and unrealistic. Peterson’s reply? “Be patient,” he recalled. Campbell added “I think it (the film’s portrayal of TV news) came true.

“The real message is as long as you don’t impact the corporate profits – even if it is a crazed anchor bent on committing suicide on air as is the case in the movie – they’re (management) is fine with it.”

The event also marked the launch of a partnership between Allbritton’s forthcoming D.C. news Web site – to be led by AU alum and former executive editor of Jim Brady – and AU’s School of Communication.

Partnership plans include student-produced content and internships, among other opportunities. “Larry Kirkman, the dean of the School of Communication, and I were just talking about this film,” Brady said during introductory remarks. “The most famous line is ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.’ Well now, journalism students don’t have to take it anymore,” he said of the opportunities today’s journalists have to seek employment beyond the mainstream media.

This not lost on Campbell, Clooney, and Peterson as they reminisced about TV news before the digial era. “In 1976 I could do a 5-minute story,” Peterson said, noting that stories were also shot and edited on film, making for a longer turnaround.

Joked Clooney, “You know, they’re looking at us as if we’re in rocking chairs up here.” Clooney.

A special thanks to Maggie Barrett, American University’s public information officer, for the contents of this post.