The reality show from 2008 showed enthusiastic high school kids putting out the student newspaper at Cypress Bay High School in Broward County, Florida. Each episode, said the New York Observer, was “a window into the prolonged collective and individual breakdown that is a newspaper close.”
But the reality series wasn’t all about making deadlines. There were fights, lots of insults and everything else you’d expect from teens who know they’re on camera. (“Tensions occasionally explode into emotional outbursts,” wrote the Sun-Sentinel’s Tom Jicha. “The producers “all but ignore actual work on the newspaper,” complained Andy Denhart of Reality Blurred blog.)
Adam Brock, who was the newspaper’s ad manager, tells me: “After an episode aired on TV, you could always expect the next day to be awkward in Mrs. Weiss’s [journalism] class” because of things that were said. “But we all pretty much knew how we felt about each other and specific situations that arose throughout the year.”
What happened to the journalism students from Cypress Bay High? They’re doing a variety of things now — from teaching to marketing — but not one main cast member from “The Paper” now works on a newspaper. (Only two responded to my emails and tweets asking for updates on their lives.)
Amanda Lorber, Editor-in-Chief
The feisty top editor “became a role model to some viewers, an inadvertent villain to others and a case study in the perils that a young person faces when she becomes a reality-television star before she is old enough to vote,” Dave Itzkoff wrote in a 2008 New York Times piece. (Gawker called her the show’s “go-get-’em star.”) She told the Times that “I’m really fond of print” and that “I want to keep it alive.” But Lorber, an NYU graduate, doesn’t have anything to do with print these days. Her LinkedIn profile says she now works as a Development Assistant at Prana animation studios in Los Angeles. She is, according to her Vimeo page a “writer, producer, director, idea chick.”
Alex Angert, Managing Editor
He went on to Penn State and worked on the Daily Collegian for four years. As sports editor, Angert coordinated the paper’s Jerry Sandusky scandal coverage and also contributed to the Patriot-News’s reporting. After graduating in 2012, he covered the Dodgers for MLB.com. He’s now a records manager at Guinness World Records.
“It was a year of my life with a camera crew following me around,” he says of the show. “They filmed me on my first date and followed us to parties. …It was a pretty cool experience. The downside was some of us weren’t portrayed in the light we hoped we would have been. …We all had our moments of triumph, and we all had our down moments.”
Cassia Laham, Entertainment Editor
The high school paper’s entertainment editor had some beefs with the media five years ago. “I feel like we’re becoming too tangled in things unimportant,” she told Matt Haber, who was then with the New York Observer. “Like spending four weeks on Anna Nicole Smith or any petty news when there are bigger things happening.” But still, she said, “I really think journalists are so important in informing. The biggest way to help people is by telling them what’s going on.”
After high school, she decided to ditch journalism for education and now teaches American History at Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembrooke Pines, FL.
Adam Brock, Advertising Manager
The former high school sales guy with a “charmingly outsize personality” now works for NBCUniversal’s Oxygen Media. “I am responsible for the production of several on-air and print projects within our show launches as well as continuity efforts,” he writes in an email. Brock’s also involved with strategy and execution of Oxygen’s digital word of mouth campaigns.
“I will always be thankful and never regret anything about my experience on The Paper,” he says. “I think it’s interesting to see how far reality television has gone since The Paper premiered back in 2008. It has become a cultural phenomenon and I am thrilled to have been a part of it.”
Do people still mention that they saw him on the show? I asked.
“It happened a lot in college, but has slowed down a lot more since moving to New York. Since I’m in the television industry now, it’s funny to go to networking events and meet lifelong MTV employees and bring up the show and have them remember it and then see the light bulb flash in their head as they realize who I am.”
Dan Surgan, Staff Writer
Dan Surgan blogged about the show as it aired. “It was an exciting episode for me,” he wrote after week three, “as I did my first nude scene on national television. I’ve been getting a ton of Facebook friend requests and everyone who contacts me has been very nice.”
From another post: “One girl who walked into me in the hallway freaked out when she realized who I was and pretty much raped me with compliments. I later gave her an MTV backpack and she told me that I just made her life.”
Surgan now attends Florida Gulf Coast University and it appears he still has some interest in newspapers.
Giana Pacinelli, who was The Circuit’s news editor, is now a grad student at Nova Southeastern University, according to her LinkedIn profile. Layout editor Trevor Ballard, who was Pacinelli’s boyfriend when the show aired, got his industrial engineering degree from the University of Florida and apparently is in grad school.
Rhonda Weiss, Newspaper Advisor
For 12 years now, she’s been teaching journalism and advising the student newspaper staff at Cypress Bay High. She tells me in a phone chat that she had eight journalism students her first year, about 70 the year that “The Paper” aired, and expects 113 in her j-classes this school year. Her kids are still gung ho about newspapers, and The Circuit now has separate staffs for the print edition and the online edition, she tells me.
Weiss says of “The Paper”: “I don’t think it changed my life one way or another. It was just an interesting experience” — one that took an unexpected turn for the teacher/adviser.
“They told me this was going to be about smart kids. I guess I was maybe a little bit of a sucker to believe that.” (Before the series aired, Weiss told the Sun-Sentinel: “These kids are really bright. I’m glad the rest of the world will get to see that.”)
In the end, though, “they kind of steered the series toward the pettiness that’s in all human beings. …But overall, I think everyone [at the school] was OK with it.”
Reviews from 2008:
* MTV’s Baby Woodwards love Sy Hersh and MoDo (observer.com)
* High school journalists make headlines on MTV’s series (popmatters.com)
* The show just trivializes the students’ experiences (realityblurred.com)
* Editor Lorber has “an outspoken love for a news medium most people her age regard as terminally uncool” (nytimes.com)
* These are real people whose lives will be altered by this show (columbiaspectator.com)
* The teen journalists are “a competitive, highly dramatic bunch” (nytimes.com)