The details about the declining US press are so accurate. You might think that the graphic novel The Stringer was a piece of nonfiction. Surely writer Ted Rall has captured the essence of newsrooms experiencing severe budget and layoffs.
As the publisher’s description notes, “veteran war correspondent Mark Scribner is about to throw in the towel on journalism when he discovers that his hard-earned knowledge can save his career and make him wealthy and famous.” All he has to do is reframe his entire journalistic ethos.
The title, incidentally, describes “a newspaper correspondent not on the regular staff of a newspaper, especially one retained on a part-time basis to report on events in a particular place.” They are generally poorly paid, with little or, usually no job benefits or security.
The Stringer shows how “fact-based journalism,” which means reporters on the ground, has often taken a hit. What’s more important in an age of social media, is to get eyeballs to view your “content” on social media. It might make someone rich and famous but at the potential cost of one’s soul.
Mark Scribner, as shown by Rall and Pablo Callejo, has figured out the system and how to game it. The book is an “action-packed timely statement about how a society without a vibrant independent culture of reporting can degenerate into chaos and a warning of the dangers of sophisticated new technologies that enable the manufacture and modification of ‘truths’ with no basis in fact.”
Would Bryan Cranston approve?
Some have compared Scribner to the Walter White character in the TV series Breaking Bad. He was once a decent person who, due to circumstances, ended up committing acts that he once could not have imagined doing. And cynically rationalizing it.
Publishing Weekly calls the conclusion “well-crafted overkill,” and I would agree, though I found Scribner more than “two-dimensional.”
Ted Rall is “a nationally syndicated political cartoonist, columnist, graphic novelist, editor, author, and occasional war correspondent.” Rall and Callejo have worked together previously on The Year of Loving Dangerously, a semi-autobiographical tale about getting booted out of college, then grifting.