“They’re so open about their feelings, about their thoughts. And they’re so smart,” Mr. Sirulnick marveled. “They’ve grown up in an entirely different world than anybody over the age of, say, 26. They’ve grown up in a world and era of sharing their lives. … Facebook, MySpace, blogs,” he said, chopping the air for emphasis. Marshall Eisen, one of the show’s executive producers, agreed. “They weren’t there to please us. … They’re stars.”
Viewers may think the same when Ms. Lorber, who calls to mind the perky but steely Tracy Flick from Election, bursts into a spontaneous song about Page One proofs. Or when Alex Angert, another editor, gets tossed around by the Cypress Bay High football team in a bit of George Plimpton-esque participatory journalism. Then there’s the time Mr. Brock, in a startling lapse of professionalism, attends High School Musical: The Ice Tour the night of the big close.
The conflicts in the office over who gets to be editor in chief are so intense that the staff of The Circuit nearly revolts, prompting one staffer, Charesse James, to declare “This is the Vietnam of newspapers!” (Mr. Brock, who was voted “Most Dramatic” in the yearbook, felt it was more like West Side Story.) When the dust settles, Ms. Lorber, who sees herself as a “mama bear helping her cub reporters collect their berries” must do all she can to keep the team together, including hosting a moderately successful ice cream social and marking up proofs in optimistic purple ink with a smiley face and “Nice Job!” scrawled at the bottom. (Why can’t more editors be so thoughtful?)
MS. LORBER CAME to journalism the long way. “At first I wanted to do theater,” she said on the phone from Florida, after moving the interview time so she could do some homework. “I wanted to be on Broadway. … I didn’t know there was so much to journalism until I was in ninth grade.”
Asked who her role models are, the 17-year-old Ms. Lorber fairly squealed. “Well, Woodward and Bernstein, obviously!”
When pressed for more contemporary writers she admires, she said, “I like most of the columnists at The New York Times. I forgot her name… Ooph. I read her all the time. Uhhh…”
“Yes! She rocks. She’s so witty. She could be talking about something so serious but there’s humor to it usually.”
Her colleague Ms. Laham has her own heroes: “I love Keith Olbermann from MSNBC and I watch Countdown every night. I love Seymour Hersh: That’s who I would love to be. If I could be anybody, I’d be Seymour Hersh. A serious investigative reporter who knows where to dig and how to uncover these startling truths.” (When Mr. Hersh uncovered the My Lai massacre in 1969, Ms. Laham was minus-21 years old.)
Both Ms. Lorber and Ms. Laham intend to study journalism in college. (MTV’s Marshall Eisen says internships will be available to them when they’re the right age.) In the meantime, they hope the series has an impact on their field.
“We thought about what a great opportunity it could be for all of us and for the future of journalism—if I’m not being too far-reaching in my belief that this could end up helping young journalists all over the country,” Ms. Lorber said. “I know it sounds so juvenile because it’s a television show that’s going on a kid’s network, but they have a lot of people watching that network. And a lot of those people are teenagers. I hope that teenagers can see the show and think, ‘Gee, that looks like fun’ or ‘That looks interesting. … Why not join my school newspaper?’”
Bravo! However bleak the field might be, journalism’s got to be a better dream than moving to The Hills.