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Nine years after retiring as The New York Times top chronicler of the entertainment business, journalist-turned-playwright Bernard Weinraub is now turning his sights back on newspaper reporting with his new play, Above the Fold, running through Feb. 23 at the Pasadena Playhouse.
Weinraub retired from journalism in 2005, but did not put down his pen. In 2007, he wrote The Accomplices, a Holocaust-themed drama that put him on a collision course with his former employer when the Times gave it a bad review. His second play, Above the Fold, shines a spotlight on political corruption, racism and the sorry state of media in the information age.
Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, CBS’ Person of Interest) heads the cast as a reporter from a major New York newspaper who is investigating a gang rape involving three frat boys and a stripper in a North Carolina college town. It looks like an open-and-shut case about rich white boys preying on a disadvantaged minority — a headline that’s like red meat to her East Coast, liberal-leaning editors. Unfortunately, Henson’s editors are less interested in facts than with running a good story.
“The way people file stories now is far different than it was seven or eight years ago, in terms of filing for Twitter periodically, going for the web,” Weinraub tells The Hollywood Reporter. “In the ’90s, a White House story — you would have an announcement at 10 o’clock, and you’d be able to work on it for five or six hours, and then report and then write it. And now, almost immediately you’re filing. You’re filing for web, you just keep filing and updating. There’s less time to actually report.”
While shorter filing times can lead to inaccurate reporting, Weinraub is more concerned with the impact budget cuts have had on investigative journalism, a hallmark of national papers like the Times and The Washington Post. “It’s a real danger that you have the decline of newspapers, and the fact that the power that they had to change the world has diminished,” he sighs.
Weinraub began his career in the 1960s as copy boy for the Times. During his 45 years at the paper, he served as foreign correspondent in Saigon, New Delhi, Belfast and London, and covered the White House during the Reagan and first Bush administrations. In the 1990s, Hollywood became his beat, and Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal became his wife.
With the perspective that comes from eight years of retirement, Weinraub sees little in common between Washington and Hollywood. “People in Hollywood — I don’t want to make generalizations — feel vulnerable all the time; a lot of people think it’s all going to disappear overnight,” he noted. “Washington, on the other hand, has this permanent class and caste of people who are Democrats and Republicans who move from administration to administration and stay there, and there’s not the insecurity that you have in Hollywood.”
Directed by Steven Robman and co-starring Kristy Johnson, Above the Fold opens after previews on Feb. 5 and plays nightly at 8 p.m. with matinees on Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
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