Slow News Day
Andi Watson returns with the story of a Californian working for the summer at a small-town weekly British newspaper in Slow News Day. Personal and professional conflicts mix in an exploration of culture clash, with the two most prominent being American/English and journalist/advertiser.
First, Katharine meets Toby, the paper’s only remaining reporter, and gets settled in as they compare their methods of writing stories. They fight about almost everything: different goals, approaches to work, writing styles, assumptions, and family relations. Then Katharine’s boyfriend summons her back to California with the possibility of their TV script having sold.
This tale is dialogue-driven, like many classic newspaper stories — I heard echoes of His Girl Friday while reading interaction between the two leads. As a result, except for the establishing views of locations, the pages are made up of many smaller panels, most of which are head shots. Watson’s characters are distinctive, constructed from just a few strong, well-chosen lines, so it’s not a problem to quickly read the pages without missing anything, keeping up the back-and-forth rhythm of the conversation.
They’re also noticeably angular, which suits the sharp interaction between the principals. They’re not afraid of demonstrating their feelings, especially if they need to express their anger. One of the female supporting characters is softer, with a round head, but she also has a pointy chin, showing there’s a solid fighter underneath.
Even when the culture clashes are expected (as when they quibble over how football/soccer should be played), the viewpoints are fresh and realistic. I was surprised to notice some of the same points being made by the British reporter in the comic were made later in a real-life discussion I saw. The idea that someone has to win is presented as more American, since they’re more goal-driven, less interested in the process as process. However, it’s not one-sided; both cultures have their pluses, and both characters learn from each other how to accomplish what they want.
This story also points out some of the problems faced by newspapers (and for that matter, corporations) today — giving advertising more precedence than editorial, for example, or management trying to replace experienced personnel with cheaper, younger temporary workers. Watson’s choices for stories expertly mimic small-town concerns: the mayor’s pride, the local soccer team, a long-lost hamster.
Policy issues are reflected both in the stories the two leads cover and the differences in their experiences. This multi-layered approach to making the issues more personal provides a variety of viewpoints without getting preachy or dragging down the story. The gradual revelation of the character’s private lives resembles getting to know a new acquaintance as they become a friend; the reader’s experience parallels to that of the characters.
I didn’t see the end coming, although I probably should have, given the classic structure involved. Slow News Day is a delightful romantic comedy in comic form.