Thursday, February 22, 2007

When the competition gives up

OK, this is that odd, delicate subject I can't avoid any longer. You see I'm an old beat newspaper reporter. I used to cover city hall, schools, the county courthouse, etc. in a myriad of small to mid-sized towns. A best reporter's job (in my mind) is to put a blanket over the area in question and strive to capture its essence for the reading public.

When I started writing about the Texas film industry 10 years ago, it was mainly about getting to see movies for free. One day I decided to write a column, thinking Texans would like to know what's going on in their burgeoning film scene. I, of course, was such an idiot that I didn't realize Jane Sumner had been doing just such a column at the Dallas Morning News for a couple of decades. Jane creamed me. She was a beat reporter who knew her beat up and down. Over time I slowly started to catch up. Sometimes I beat her to the scoop.

My column was picked up by the Austin American-Statesman in 2000 and ran there until 2004, when I jumped ship because of disagreements over the column's future form as it moved to the paper's XL entertainment section. Shortly after it was picked up by The Austin Chronicle. About the same time Jane Sumner left the Morning News and a year later my column debuted there as well.

Meanwhile my old pals at the Statesman had their own form of the film industry column in the XL as planned. That is until the tabloid shrank so much that the column dropped. Their solution was to move film news to a Web blog, where it appears to mainly consist of press releases and links, you know bloggy stuff like you see here.

That's all well and good, but I can't help but be amazed that they have yet to mention anywhere either online or in print the TV pilot I told my readers about a month ago or the indie film starring Julia Roberts that I confirmed last week (after noting the film a few weeks before that). All this at a time when many in the film industry are fighting for state incentives to stay competitive.

The old beat reporter in my misses my own perception of competition (slap me around if I'm sounding pompous here. Ouch!)I also miss the two-newspaper cities we not too long ago had in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio (Austin, too, if you go back to the Austin Citizen). I can't help believing we'd all be better off with more, not less.

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