It’s one thing to leave the newspaper business and struggle on through reduced circumstances — for example, writing a lame blog like this one without compensation. It’s quite another to leave the newspaper business and make several million dollars writing about a deceased dog. Perhaps this is why John Grogan, the author of Marley and Me and numerous other books on the same subject, is not universally revered at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where we both used to work. I never met the man and I’m sure he’s a great guy, but when you leave the hallowed halls of journalism it’s considered bad form to rub journalists’ noses in it by becoming a millionaire.
And it’s considered really bad form to have a film crew descend on the newsroom (pictured above) where one’s former coworkers still toil, making their work a bit more hellish for the day by the addition of 250 movie folk to record a few seconds of Owen Wilson striding purposefully through the newsroom. I never saw the real John Grogan do that, incidentally, but doubtless it’s because we worked different shifts.
Most places, the arrival of a film crew would create breathless excitement. At the Inquirer, I’m guessing it will trigger slightly more bitching than a new round of downsizing. The thing is, you’re asking people to sit at a different computer, for God’s sake, where there is probably a weird trackball instead of a mouse, and a split keyboard and a monitor on a milk crate and a ratty chair adjusted so you’re practically sitting on the floor. You’re forcing them to box up their inflatable palm trees and Tom Toles cartoons and hip figurines so they won’t be crushed underfoot by the Hollywood crowd.
In an era of serial indignities for newspaper people, this is just another one — but it’s all the greater for the fact that the disruption is necessary to create the illusion that a writer of dog books was somehow the Jimmy Breslin of North Broad Street. It’s like Fox commandeering the Louvre for a day to make a movie about Thomas Kinkade.
The movie’s out in December. But I think this Marley business has gone far enough. My boycott starts now.