By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Apr 23, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive when the DVD of "Stop the Presses" arrived last week.

The documentary about the decline of the newspaper business -- which airs at 10:30 p.m., Sunday on Channel 36 -- was released in 2008, and I feared that it would be horribly out of date. Things have only sped up in the past two years, with the economic crash hitting already wounded newspapers.

The worries were compounded by the fact that one of the two guys behind this documentary is an old friend and former Milwaukee Journal comrade, Manny Mendoza.

My fears were unfounded. It's not only an informative look at newspapering and its current woes, it's an entertaining look at the romance of the business, powered by clips from old Hollywood flicks.

Mendoza and Dallas documentary filmmaker Mark Birnbaum took a big picture view of what was happening in the industry. Overall, that bleak picture is still accurate today.

A couple specific points have been updated in the current version, but the sad story is still the same. 


Mendoza knows the newspaper story from the inside. He spent a couple years as a reporter at the old Milwaukee Journal before heading to the Dallas Morning News in 1992, to be a pop music critic. He went on to be one of the newspaper's TV critics before taking a buyout in 2006.

At the time, he had an idea about making a documentary film about a Dallas mural artist, and he hooked up with Birnbaum, a veteran filmmaker he'd written about.

"He said, 'Fine, I'll make that film with you if you make a film with me about what's happening in the newspaper business.'"

That's how the partnership started, and the product of their work is now airing on public TV stations around the country.

Though he was chronicling the death of an industry where he'd made a career for all his adult life, Mendoza said it wasn't as emotionally draining as you might think.

"I don't know if that's just a character flaw," he joked. 

That's not really surprising. For a reporter like Mendoza, telling a story, even a sad story, can be invigorating. You can still hear the excitement in Mendoza's voice when he describes the project, which also traces the history of American newspapers.

For Milwaukee TV viewers, "Stop the Presses" helps put changes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel into perspective.  Some readers think cutbacks at the newspaper -- are a local matter.

They're not.

We're in the midst of a change that, as the film shows, began even before the rise of the Internet. Younger readers began drifting away in the 1980s as reading habits changed. The move to the Internet has only hastened the sea change in how we consume information.

While the film offers a good look at how newspapers have arrived into their current sad state, Mendoza says he was surprised by what happened in the two years since the film was finished.

When the film was in final production, he and Birnbaum considered subtitling the film "Death of the American Newspaper."

"In early 2008,when we were trying to finalize the title, that seemed like hyperbole."

That other film: And what of the documentary on the Dallas mural artist that Mendoza wanted to work on? The short film, titled "Dig Deep," is finally finished, and you can watch it here:

On TV: "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone say "we have never done a show that we couldn't stand behind," after Comedy Central's censoring of Wednesday's episode because references to Muhammad led to threats. "We'll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we'll see what happens to it."

  • Here's a reminder that Milwaukee Public TV's annual auction kicks off at 5 this evening on Channel 10. It runs through May 1 and you can also watch it at or
  • NBC'S "Minute to Win It" has been added to the summer schedule. The summer version will launch July 7, featuring new episodes and reruns of the silly game show starring Guy Fieri.
  • The pilot for CBS' "Hawaii 5-0" remake includes the new McGarret saying "Book 'em, Danno," the new McGarrett, Alex O'Loughlin tells

Danny gets ready to sell glasses:  The two commercials for Wisconsin Vision filmed by Milwaukee "American Idol" finalist Danny Gokey -- who turns 30 on Saturday -- start airing next week.

Here's an advance look:


Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.