The (new) Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Journalism Entering the Digital Era

After hearing through the family grapevine that the new version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is worth seeing, I caught it last night at LSC at MIT for free. What my family didn’t tell me that I’ll tell you is that the “real life” parts of the movie are completely different from the 1947 version’s storyline. Instead, they deal with Life magazine shutting down and the transition the publication and its staff go through to begin entering the digital age. Sound familiar? Walter is a “negative asset manager,” aka photo negative librarian/archivist—one of us news and photo librarians. Like many of us, he must figure out what to do next with his career and, well, life because of changes to the media industry and its downsizing.

Several scenes happen in the physical photo archive. I guess I gasped audibly when the characters entered that area the first time because I saw my companion glance at me. Levels of classic metal shelves in a common library architecture. Hollinger boxes. Memories.

I’m not a big Ben Stiller fan by any means, but I did enjoy the film, especially because I can relate to the plot line involving Walter’s job. Going through another job transition, I’ve been pondering my own career path, where I’ve been, and what various changes might mean for my professional future. Someone recently asked me where I see myself in five years. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have predicted I am where I am now. (But, amusingly, I may have just done a loop and ended up in a position that makes great sense based on where I was five years ago.) Where should I be in five years? Where do I want to be in five years? Sitting on a Himalayan mountainside photographing and observing snow leopards seems terrific to me, but quite orthogonal from where I am now.

Anyway … LSC shows The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) again tonight at 8 pm in 26-100 at MIT.

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