Director Ron Howard attempts the Great American Newspaper Picture and mostly pulls it off. The film's greatest weakness is that he and screenwriters David and Stephen Koepp (the latter a journalist himself) love those scrappy newshounds too much; THE PAPER doesn't even try for the appropriately acid bite of, say, any version of THE FRONT PAGE. "In 24 hours your world can change," goes the slogan of The New York Sun, a Big Apple tabloid; the maxim applies to reporters as well as readers. City Editor Henry Hackett (Michael Keaton) loves street-level news business, but he's got a tempting job offer from a stuffy, "quality" rival daily; a pregnant wife to consider; and a nemesis in the shape of the Sun's managing editor, Alicia Clark (Glenn Close), who doubts his story sense. Their antagonism boils over with the day's big story, a mob hit on some white businessmen, disguised as a racial murder. Howard weaves multiple subplots and supporting characters into the main story with finesse, imposing order, good humor, and straight-ahead momentum on a naturally chaotic subject. Some components work better than others; the troubles of a weary editor-in-chief (Robert Duvall) seeking detente with his estranged daughter are standard melodrama, and Randy Quaid deserves more time as a legendary beat reporter who has been "demoted" to a Jimmy Breslin-style columnist. But the ensemble performances are terrific and, thanks to the breezy pace, the flaws hardly matter.