About this project
WE HIT OUR GOAL of $150,000!! We are so excited to take the mantle now and push this project forward this year. Thank you to everyone who has helped us! We are completely committed to making a film that will make you all proud.
We still have almost two days left before the campaign ends, and so we would like to encourage anyone who would still like to donate to do it. We can put any additional funds we raise to great use. Literally every dollar we collect over our goal will go to making this film better, sooner.
Also, this is a great opportunity to strengthen and broaden this community of people who have come together for this common cause. So let’s keep this thing going for two more days! Thanks again to everyone!
"...maybe the best example of what journalists can accomplish when given resources and encouraged to shoot for excellence."
The Newspaperman will tell the story of the legendary newspaper editor Gene Roberts. He was often called the best editor in the country at a time when newspapers had unprecedented resources and impact, and yet today he is virtually unknown to the general public. Roberts managed to turn the Philadelphia Inquirer – possibly the worst big-city paper in the country in the 1960s – into one of the very best. We’ll show how he did it and how his career traced the arc of the rise and fall of American newspapers.
This is that rare story that gets better and better the more you look into it. And no one has really told it to a wide audience yet. Not only is this the story of one man’s incredible career, it’s also the story of newspapers at their high point. What happened at the Inquirer is maybe the best example of what journalists can accomplish when given resources and encouraged to shoot for excellence. We think this is an important story on its own, but it also has obvious resonance when thinking about the future of journalism.
The business of news is changing, but more and more, we see an outright hostility towards solid journalism, science, and provable facts in this fraught political climate. When journalism is diminished, so is our ability to determine what's best for society.
This story is maybe the best example of what can happen when the right ingredients for strong, aggressive journalism come together at the right place and time. The Gene Roberts era happened to be the most robust and exciting time for newspapers this country has ever seen. But Roberts had a special genius for getting the most out of the resources he had available to him and for motivating a newspaper staff to do their very best for the community. And that’s why his story is unique.
Director David Layton grew up the son of an Inquirer editor, Charles Layton. He couldn’t help but notice the passion and dedication his father had for his work. Clearly there was something special going on in that place at that time. Occasionally, David would take the train into center city and meet his father at the paper, perhaps to get dinner or see a ballgame. He would rush past the guards, run up the stairs and then wind through the fifth floor newsroom to his father’s desk.
It was an exciting place. People were taking phone calls, typing furiously, talking about stories to each other. And despite the furor and the mild panic over a looming deadline, the staffers seemed happy. They laughed frequently and enjoyed an easy rapport with one another. David’s parents would occasionally host small dinner parties attended by a few Inquirer reporters and editors, and David would listen as they discussed with intelligence, wit and earnestness what was going on at the paper. Though he had no idea at the time, this is where the germ of this film was created.
As the years went on, David learned more about Gene Roberts – specifically about what a talented journalist he was before he came to Philadelphia, how unique his talents were, and that it was he who had almost single-handedly created the conditions in which the Inquirer had bloomed so magnificently.
Now more than ever, we feel this story has larger ramifications for our democracy. Deconstructing the era of the Roberts' Inquirer can serve as a vital primer. What are the conditions needed for journalism to flourish? What qualities of leadership are required? And how can good journalism inform our nation's citizenry in the face of fake news, misinformation, and the “post-truth” climate in which we currently find ourselves?
We intend to show what can be done when smart, hard-working people believe in the mission of delivering solid news to their community. This is a fascinating chronicle of an important moment in American history, but it’s also a fun story of an exciting place and time. It’s about building an amazing team. It’s about leadership and perseverance. It’s about scores of talented people spreading their wings and reaching for excellence together. We hope it will also be an inspirational lesson for now and the future.
David Layton, producer | director
David is an Austin-based filmmaker with a passion for cinematography and documentary film. He began his career as a newspaper reporter, but honed his technical skills working in the camera department on notable documentary features such as The Unforeseen, Be Here to Love Me, The Devil and Daniel Johnson, You’re Gonna Miss Me, Nuclear Family, Troop 1500, and Letter From Waco. David produced and directed his first documentary feature, The Hot Shoe, in 2004. In 2011, David was co-producer and director of photography on Better This World, which was broadcast on the POV. He was cinematographer on two recent PBS documentaries, By the River of Babylon: An Elegy for South Louisiana and Through the Repellant Fence: A Land Art Film. Most recently, David shot the feature documentary Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny which premiered at Sundance in 2016.
Mike Nicholson, producer | director
Mike is an award-winning filmmaker and graphic artist whose work has screened around the world. In 2011, he produced the critically acclaimed feature documentary Better This World, which premiered at SXSW and was named “Best Documentary” at the Gotham Independent Film Awards. Previously Mike co-produced and served as director of photography on the feature doc Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah, a revealing look at the life of a Texas songwriter and folk hero. As a graphic designer, Mike has created titles and graphics for numerous films, including the feature documentaries After Tiller (2013), A Fragile Trust (2013), By the River of Babylon: An Elegy for South Louisiana (2014), 61 Bullets (2014), Very Semi-Serious (2015), Vegas Baby (2016), and Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny (2016). Most recently, Mike co-directed “The Supreme Court v. the American Voter,” a short film about voting rights for the New York Times.
1. Back the Project - Kickstarter is ALL OR NOTHING. If we don't meet or exceed our $150,000 target, we get nothing. Any amount helps us achieve this goal!
2. Spread the Word - Whether you are able to donate or not, sharing this project on your social media accounts or via email truly helps us build a community. Use bit.ly/TheNewspaperman
If you'd like to invest more deeply in the project, or are interested in a tax-deductible contribution, please contact us at the above email addresses. We'd love to talk with you!
Once this project is funded, we will hire an editing staff and start editing full-time. Funding will enable us to craft the many hours of archival footage and interviews into a compelling film. We'll also continue to shoot the final crucial interviews for the completion of the film to be woven into the final edit. We'll hire an archivist to help us locate and license the additional archival material we need to bring the film to life.
We expect to raise the final monies for completion of the film (including music composing and licensing, archival licensing, graphics and titles, sound mixing, color correction, & final mastering) in the coming months. We hope to be submitting to the 2018 festival circuit.
Making a film is a multi-faceted endeavor which takes time and money. If we encounter delays for any reason, we will inform all funders with updates as to our progress. We hope that all backers will feel a part of this process and share the pride of the finished project.
Risks and challenges
After four years of working on this project, we are convinced The Newspaperman will be a terrific film, and that it will find an audience once it is completed. That said, we cannot guarantee mass distribution of the film. But we are passionate about this story, and are determined to share it with as many people as possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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