It’s already makingthe Baltimore Sun, having been gutted and skullfucked by Chicago’s very own Tribune company, defensive and pissy:
More problematic still is the way Simon links certain newsroom characters to real-life journalists through words and actions – and then depicts them exclusively in a negative fashion. Simon moves deeper into docudrama when he does that, and The Wire suffers as a result.
The docudrama genre, which has come under increasing fire in recent years, combines the look of documentary film with the literary license of theater – giving viewers the sense that what they are watching is true even though facts have been rearranged and actions invented.
Beyond blurring fact and fiction and ignoring any sense of proportionality, the genre also telescopes and confuses time. Simon left the Sun in 1995, and his newsroom villains are patterned on editors and a reporter long gone from Baltimore. But Simon presents his story as if it is taking place at The Sun today.
Ultimately, the most disappointing aspect of Season 5 is that Simon offers such a simplistic critique of media and their effects on mass consciousness. To say that even the most respected newspapers sometimes have ethical lapses will hardly be news to any HBO viewers who have ever heard of Jayson Blair and The New York Times.
Newspapers have changed exponentially since Simon left 12 years ago. When he was in the newsroom, cable TV was still considered new media – and most newspapers were at least five years away from the realization that they would soon live or die by the Internet. The first seven episodes of The Wire have almost nothing to say about the biggest story in newspapers: the vast technological change sweeping through media today. And that is most surprising given how up-to-the-second – even prescient – the series has been about the use of the latest technology by criminals.
Given that the writer above also calls “technological change” the biggest story in journalism today automatically makes me distrust the rest of his analysis. The point of the Wire’s never been criminals’ use of technology. It’s about systems and the ways in which we tolerate and solve and do not solve problems in society. Bitching about the Internet isn’t solving a problem, it’s making an excuse for the craven and greedy people in power, the kind of thing Simon excels in skewering.