News­pa­pers shred­ded in new BBC1 drama

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Mark Brown Arts cor­re­spon­dent Char­lotte Ri­ley and David Suchet, above, play a jour­nal­ist and a press baron in the se­ries writ­ten by Mike Bartlett, left

David Suchet is to star as a news­pa­per press baron in a new BBC1 drama chart­ing the com­pet­ing for­tunes of a lib­eral left broad­sheet and a tabloid mov­ing on from a phone-hack­ing scan­dal.

The six-part se­ries, Press, is the work of the Doc­tor Fos­ter and King Charles III writer Mike Bartlett who has promised a drama that in­ter­ro­gates why news is im­por­tant and ex­plores the eth­i­cal dilem­mas re­porters and edi­tors face each day.

It is also a se­ries that, he has hinted, will do lit­tle to im­prove the some­times bat­tered pub­lic im­age of jour­nal­ists.

Bartlett’s tabloid is called the Post, his broad­sheet the Her­ald. Suchet will play the CEO of the Post’s pub­lisher.

Paapa Essiedu, the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany’s lat­est Ham­let, plays the Post’s new­est re­porter; Shane Zaza, re­cently in the cast of the Royal Court’s re­vival of Road, its news edi­tor; and El­lie Ken­drick, Meera Reed in Game of Thrones, a ju­nior re­porter. Ben Chap­lin will play the edi­tor.

Two ac­tors who ap­peared in Bartlett’s TV ver­sion of his play King Charles III will play Her­ald jour­nal­ists. Char­lotte Ri­ley, who played Kate Mid­dle­ton, plays the deputy news edi­tor while Priyanga Burford plays the edi­tor. Ri­ley, who in real life is mar­ried to ac­tor Tom Hardy, said Press was a “truly bril­liant” piece of writ­ing.

BBC drama con­troller Piers Wenger said: “The news­pa­per busi­ness is part of Bri­tain’s iden­tity and Mike’s grip­ping se­ries of cru­sad­ing jour­nal­ists in this ever-chang­ing in­dus­try, brought to life by a bril­liantly tal­ented cast, make for a fresh, thrilling and ut­terly Bri­tish con­tem­po­rary drama.”

It is a work of fic­tion but the Her­ald may not be a mil­lion miles from the Guardian given that Bartlett spent a day, three years ago, shad­ow­ing the pa­per’s news­desk.

He has pre­vi­ously re­vealed snip­pets of what to ex­pect. “I’d love to say it’s go­ing to re­store jour­nal­ists’ rep­u­ta­tions but I’m not con­vinced it will,” he told the Guardian.

“What it does do is in­ter­ro­gate why news is im­por­tant and how we cover it.

“It’s also very much a work­place drama set in a very dis­tinct work­place in a time of un­cer­tainty. I know that peo­ple might ex­pect the lib­eral left broad­sheet are the he­roes and boo the tabloid but it’s more com­pli­cated than that.”

TV has a long and patchy his­tory of por­tray­ing jour­nal­ists. The 1970s US drama Lou Grant made news­pa­per jour­nal­ism look ex­cit­ing and no­ble while Ken Bar­low as edi­tor of the Weather­field Recorder in Coro­na­tion Street made it ap­pear less so.

They are of­ten writ­ten as ob­nox­ious, over­bear­ing, sleazy al­co­holics which is why many jour­nal­ists were pleased with Paul Ab­bott’s 2003 TV drama, State of Play, which gave a more re­al­is­tic de­pic­tion.

Press will be­gin film­ing in Oc­to­ber and air on BBC1 in 2018, then on PBS in the US.

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