The titles of new BBC journalism drama Press roll and it’s already irritating most of the journalists watching.
There’s some fancy shots of notepads with lots of longhand. Where’s their shorthand? Did the reporter flunk their entry exams? Why are they being burned? Their owners must be pretty confident they won’t need to defend any libel claims. I see a traditional camera but no smartphone in sight.
Press follows the characters working for two rival newspapers – presumably national ones judging by the type of stories covered.
It meanders its way through a river of credible storylines, yet disappointingly fails to hit the spot in the majority of cases.
There’s the hacks who talk about the singular story they’re working on in the day ahead. Reporters at our paper had two each waiting in their inbox before they’d arrived this morning.
Everyone in morning conference is remarkably relaxed, so much so that someone’s had time to produce a slideshow of the day’s tasks. No sign of bleary-eyed reporters desperately fingering their notes to pitch a vague story on the hoof. Everything is presented in a dossier, too. Never seen one of those in the office before.
There’s the journo who complains he was one of ‘only’ three investigative reporters left in his newsroom. That’s the bustling newsroom we’ve glimpsed minutes earlier, with more people crammed in than the London Underground at rush hour.
Sure, staffing is definitely an issue facing modern-day newspaper offices but back in reality those who are left are sobbing into their morning Greggs brews as a caller rings in asking to speak to the long-vacated ‘features desk’.
Then, Poirot turns up moonlighting as a slimy newspaper tycoon, a surprise which hits us with such disbelief we lose track of what on Earth he’s talking about.
Press pulls no punches as its launches into one of the worst jobs in journalism: the death knock. It’s another worthy, well-researched aspect of industry life.
We’ve all been where cub reporter Ed Washburn finds himself, timidly rapping upon the door of a bereaved family who are going to tell him to f*** off before he hopefully cries ‘We’d like to do a tribute’. It hits the spot – but why is Ed finding himself on a national paper having never done a death knock before? I don’t recall seeing his notebook, or even an audio recorder (perish the thought!). Maybe he inexplicably burned it…
To top it all off, Ed’s threatening manner when the pen-free interview ends a bit sour portrays all the worst ethical practices that so many people perceive as the industry norm. I fear anyone watching from the outside thinks that’s how it always happens.
Don’t even get me started on the closing scene. Holly Evans is up late, penning her next shock scoop. We’re introduced to her as her paper’s deputy news editor, a title which would require a high level of journalistic comprehension.
Again, Press nails the after-hours typing which I’m used to. Why, though, given her position, is she writing like a work experience student who has come in for the week because their mother made them?
Press was never going to stick totally to the reality. I get that. I was never expecting a documentary.
If you look at it like that, then it may be up your street.
So in spite of all my nitpicking, I was really judging the programme on its ability to grab me, in the way Broadchurch did, or Game of Thrones reeled me in during those all-nighters with newborn Albie.
The overall plot, however, lacked tension and burned too slowly. If I’d have been watching it during those early parenting days, I’d have fallen asleep on the sofa and been woken by an angry partner shouting about safe sleeping!
It’s for that reason I can’t recommend it but we’ll give it one last chance and hope episode two makes up for it.