I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Fit to Print

Maurice Walsh
On Press: The Liberal Values That Shaped the News, by Matthew Pressman, Harvard University Press, 336 pp, £23.95, ISBN: 978-0674976658 Reporter: A Memoir, by Seymour M Hersh, Allen Lane, 368 pp, £20, ISBN 978-0241359525 In the 2011 documentary film Page One: Inside the New York Times, the American newspaper is presented as the journalistic ideal, battling the collapse of the business model that has sustained it for over a century. A young reporter on the paper’s media desk, who is about to go off to be a correspondent in Iraq, confides to the camera that working at the Times was for him a boyhood dream: he was inspired by the idea of the newspaper as a place where great things happened. In the new age of Twitter and Wikileaks – then curiously benign – the film keeps returning to loving shots of the presses turning, the reams of newsprint stretched out, the lorries queuing to take bundles of papers onto the streets at dawn. These images represent a storied history of industrial craft that buttress the paper’s claims to survival in a new, uncertain era. For the filmmakers, it is as if the integrity and authority of The New York Times – by then becoming a significant presence on the web ‑ are synonymous with printed paper (and not its dubious coverage of issues such as the presence, or not, of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq). At this time, Wikileaks is a worthy partner; Vice magazine is more of a villain than Twitter, and Facebook is merely a platform, not a powerful publisher. Nothing worse is on the horizon. Six years later, despite the speed of destructive change in the interim, the credibility of print was more subtly sanctified in The Post, Stephen Spielberg’s drama about the Washington Post’s battle in 1971 against President Richard Nixon’s attempt to suppress publication of the Pentagon Papers, a damning secret history of the Vietnam War commissioned by Lyndon Johnson’s defence secretary, Robert McNamara. In the official poster for the film the steps of the Supreme Court resemble lines of type and the action is interspersed with close-ups of printers at work and reporters sitting at typewriters, spindly keys making solid indentations on paper instead of the ghostly shapes of letters on a screen we have become used to, as if digital is inherently fake and unreliable. In The Post the crisis of the newspaper business appears secondary. The story of the Pentagon Papers is a modern…

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