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As a long time reader of the New York Times, I was delighted to see
that Page One was showing at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. Page One is a
provocative film that explores the complexities of the new media
landscape in which the New York Times now finds itself trying to
compete and keep its head above water. It is one of the few films that
I've seen that really provides the viewer with an inside look at how a
major newspaper operates. While the film tends to be pro-New York Times
by the very nature of the fact that it was made with their cooperation,
it still comes off as fair portrait of America's paper of record. The
film focuses in on the media division and how the Times is coping with
new challenges from Wikileaks, online news sources, web logs, news
aggregating websites, twitter, etc. The film clearly shows why we still
need the "so-called" old media to provide the investigative journalism
that is hard to find elsewhere.
Newspapers and especially the elite newspapers remain a crucial element in our political culture in that they provide a check against abuse of power by both government and corporations. The internet new media still relies on old media for its reporting and is not equipped to replace it. Clearly new models for cooperation between new and old are needed that will allow mainstream media to continue to profitable. The NY Times is proud, magisterial, occasionally arrogant, and absolutely necessary. Like any old institution, it will survive if it continues to change and evolve for new times and technologies.
Page One is part of an on-going conversation that the United States is having about how media will evolve in the age of the Internet. It is useful film for engaging the broader public in the conversation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a well done documentary which subject is long overdue. Some
well known truism should never be forgotten. Eliminate a professional,
elite even, news organizations such as The Times and you are one step,
the last one, to any semblance of democracy. Reporters in this
documentary explain well that the web's various pseudo journalistic
sites would not exist if it was not for the major newspapers such as
the Times. None describe as eloquently as David Carr what the web media
would become or look like if you took out all content, quotes and
facts, originating from the New York Times; the result was striking.
The documentary is also objective enough to site the major failings and risks of any major institution such as the Times; the articles on the case of weapons of mass destructions in Iraq by Judith Miller (Pulitzer Prize) and the series of fabricated articles by Jason Blair, to mention two important ones. The movie took the perspective of one department of the Times, to approach the subject, that of the Media Industry. So it provided us with a comprehensive view of the fate of newspapers and a glimpse of the future. I was certainly interested in getting information explaining how we are where we are with journalism today, not why, because who does not know that the web has meant the inevitable demise of newspapers as we knew them. I forgot who, in the film, said "information has never been free"; which explains how ludicrous it is to expect to get real journalism on the web for free, at least in depth reporting, because headlines are easy to make up, not so easy to include meat with that.
If anything, the movie will make you reflect and you can come up with your own conclusions. Mine was simple: How can you pi** off so many people, politicians and political cults, celebrities and their hedonistic followers, religious organizations of all varieties and points of view, and not be absolutely necessary; you define a free society and country by the degree of freedom and independence its press enjoys. The Times has and is changing with the times.
The phone-hacking scandal that just forced News of the World to close
its doors has brought the media to light yet again. Andrew Rossi's
"Page One: Inside the New York Times" looks at what is probably the
most famous newspaper in the United States, and how it has had to
change as media evolves. The main focus is columnist David Carr, but
all the major figures from the paper get to appear on screen (although
I would have liked to have also seen Paul Krugman and Frank Rich). One
of the main topics that the documentary brings up is the large number
of newspapers that have closed their doors as more and more people turn
to the Internet for news. But as the documentary makes clear,
newspapers do still provide certain kinds of coverage that online
sources can't provide.
Without a doubt, the NYT has had its problems (like Judith Miller's pushing the WMD claims about Iraq, and Jayson Blair's outright falsification of stories), but it remains an important source of information. In years past the Internet was not widespread, so it was through newspapers that Watergate and the Pentagon Papers got exposed. All of which shows the importance of having an informed population. All in all, this documentary is a really good look at the inner workings of the news business. I recommend it. Among the other interviewees are executive editor Bill Keller, and Baghdad bureau chief Tim Arango.
Director Andrew Rossi takes a candid look at the venerable Big Apple
daily, and how it is adapting to the growing prevalence of the internet
as people's primary news source.
This story is told primarily from the perspective of the staff on the media desk; editor Bruce Headlam, columnist David Carr and correspondent Brian Stelter. These are the guys in the unenviable position of reporting on (amongst other things) the bankruptcy of other newspapers caused by the growth of online news and the drop in advertising and circulation revenues. Carr in particular gets most of the screen time, and deservedly so. He is a profane and fiercely intelligent presence with a back-story worthy of Hollywood itself, while Stelter is that unique case of someone who started out as an anonymous news blogger before moving over to print media. After outing his identity in a series of stories about his site, the Times then went and offered him a job. He is one of the new breed a journalist who embraces the advantages of developing technology. He is seen at his cubicle with several computers running, tweeting about his stories, even bringing in a brand new iPad to demonstrate to his dumbfounded old-school colleagues.
Rossi spent a year in the Times newsroom and the film covers a variety of stories and issues covered by the paper in that time, including the Iraq War; Carr's piece on the bankruptcy of the Tribune Company (which he linked directly to mismanagement by its new owner Sam Zell and his executives); and the explosion of Wikileaks into the public consciousness with their publication of the Afghan War logs. This last is also compared to the similar case of the infamous Pentagon Papers leak in 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg to the Times. The advances in the internet have essentially done away with the idea of a Deep Throat. No longer will an insider source need to work with a reporter. Now they can just go online and tell their tale to everyone. While this means that "the truth will out" so much more, it also takes away that important middle step of fact-checking, confirming and crafting a story that a properly trained and respected journalist provides.
In its examination of the slowly dwindling print business, this film covers similar territory to the final season of The Wire. David Simon built the conclusion of his opus around a somewhat fictionalised version of his own former haunt, the Baltimore Sun. Simon features in this movie briefly as well, in a short clip of a televised debate on the dying art of a reporter working a beat that also included Arianna Huffington of the all-conquering Huffington Post. He raises a very solid point though: even with everyone and his wife blogging the news from their bedrooms, there will always be a place for the reporter on the scene, notebook in hand. The delivery method may change with the times (pardon the pun) but the infrastructure, methods and ethics of the newspaper will always be necessary. The "more with less" evangelists are having their day in the sun, but hopefully a new day will dawn soon enough. The best way to make sure that happens is to accept the fact that news costs. The film touches on the idea of pay-walls on the online versions of the paper. I'm all for these personally. You have to pay for the physical newspaper, why shouldn't you pay for the digital version?
It's rare that I get to say this, but all the poster quotes are true. This is a fascinating film that covers a lot of ground in only 92 minutes. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to buy my online subscription to the New York Times.
Greetings again from the darkness. Let me start by saying that you need
not be a newspaper expert, reporter or reader to appreciate the points
discussed in this documentary from Andrew Rossi. These key points
include the battle of print vs social media, the need for true
reporting, and the sustainability of the venerable institution that is
The New York Times.
There is some argument given towards what constitutes journalism, but for me the real guts of the matter boils down to our absolute NEED for investigative reporting. I have always given value to bulldog reporting as a checks and balances for our system. Maybe, just maybe, our public officials and corporate leaders will toe the line if they are being watched. Sure, we can all rattle off a long list of when that hasn't been the case, but I truly believe, having reporters following and snooping does make a difference in the actions of those in charge ... and even if it doesn't, it certainly makes a difference in the accuracy and depth with which their actions are written about.
The filmmaker has been given substantial access to the media desk inside the newsroom. We even get to sit on a portion of the morning meeting where the senior editors decide what the lead stories will be. Personally, I would have loved a couple more hours of just that! But just as fascinating is how Bruce Headlam manages the media news, and in particular, star reporter David Carr. Mr. Carr is a hardened reporter with the spectacular ability to cut directly through to the important point and focus on the details, verify those details, and then summarize in a concise, understandable manner. We see this in full beauty with his handling of the crisis and scandal at the Chicago Tribune under Sam Zell's banner.
Today, we like our news spoon fed to us in 20 second sound bites. So we find our favorite websites and we scan the headlines, which themselves are scans of news stories. My favorite moment of the movie occurs on a discussion panel when David Carr holds up a printout of the home page of an "aggregator". Moments later he makes the point that without real reporters and news teams (like the NYT), this aggregator's home page would look quite different ... he then holds up that same home page with 90% of the stories cut out because their source is a real news organization.
Some attention is paid to Twitter and other social media outlets. This seems to be finally accepted by the reporters as being effective for two things: a delivery system for information and a grapevine with lightning speed. Of course, no verification is required for a "news" story to hit Twitter, and therein lies its limitation.
We get interviews from both Gay Talese and Carl Bernstein on the importance of news reporting. Evidence is provided through mentions of the Pentagon Papers, Wikileaks and Watergate. Judith Miller and Jayson Blair are topics that embarrassed and did significant damage to the industry ... but changes were adopted to (hopefully) prevent re occurrence. The News of the World scandal is too new to have made the film, but it certainly would have added a fascinating subtext to it.
The bankruptcy trail of so many newspapers is discussed, along with the possibility of this happening at The Times. Personally I wish more detail had been provided on the survival strategy of this institution. Since the release of the film, there has been a change in the Executive Editor position. Bill Keller, who is featured prominently in the morning meetings, has stepped down and been replaced by Jill Abramson. Ms. Abramson is charged with driving and building online presence and revenue. We should all be wishing her success as the world is a better place with The New York Times.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The news media has been undergoing a radical change in the last few years. The new media and the blogosphere is rapidly competing as a source of breaking news. Advertising revenue has fallen as much as 30 % in the past year for many of the leading newspapers. Many newspapers throughout the country have closed. It is rare to have two major newspapers even in a large city, let alone three of them. Filmmaker Andrew Rossi persuaded the venerable New York Times to let him spend close to a year to be essentially embedded, mostly in their New York headquarters, in order to make a documentary showing how they are carrying on their proud tradition in the face of all these changes. While he worked closely with his wife filmmaker Kate Novack, and a team of editors, it was Rossi alone who roamed the multi-leveled headquarters with his trusty camera on his shoulder. He was there when the WikiLeaks story broke and he was able to capture how the New York Times writers and editorial staff struggled with the ethics and ultimate decision to print the leaks and how they became part of the story. He was filming at the staff meetings when the writers and editors were trying to figure out if the war in Iraq was coming to an end because NBC was breaking a story about departing troops but it wasn't part of the US government announcements. The central character in the much of this documentary is NY Times writer David Carr who himself has a very colorful history, once being addicted to cocaine and now being a senior well respected, witty, crusty, very capable reporter who mostly covers media issues. The film shows us how he approached the big time story of the collapse of the well known Tribune media giant, its subsequent buyout by some non newspaper people who bled the organization, dismantled their ethical base and were running a corrupt unethical management team themselves. They ultimately resigned demonstrating the power and value of the New York Times, functioning at its best as it used all its resources to report this story. In the end we are quite enlightened about the changes in how we get our news and the choices we have. We are also quite impressed as we see the coming together in a working alliance of young new media people within the powerful "legacy" news organizations symbolized by the New York Times. Working side by side or cubicle to cubicle this new generation of Times men and women seem to be able to provide the leadership and a viable co-existence with the huge blogosphere that continues to grow. It is clear that everything will be different with each year or two and the concluding lines of the story have not yet been written, This documentary does capture this fascinating piece of evolving journalism in a verite style. It is somewhat choppy without a clear plot, which reflects the nature of the content. You may walk away from this film and say , "I sort of knew all this" but for certain you will not take David Carr and his colleagues for granted any more. (2011)FilmRap.net
An interesting look behind the scenes at the venerable New York Times
newspaper that asks whether traditional newspapers can survive in an
age of social media, blogs and the rampant sense of entitlement from
internet users who demand, nonsensically, that all online content be
free. The film and its interviewees argue that blogs largely
regurgitate content from other sources and there needs to be a core of
journalists on the ground who generate the stories in the first place.
Without that, journalism in general, not just print media, will be in
It's a subject I have tremendous sympathy for, and while I wish the film was a little more hard-hitting and passionate in its approach, it certainly makes its points forcefully. That's thanks in large part to the presence of David Carr, a NY Times reporter who barrels through proceedings with a refreshingly upfront and frank manner, even at one point berating an interviewee who comes off as something of a lightweight when he slates the papers incorrectly for not doing their jobs. I liked him very much, and he's by far the most engaging part of the documentary.
It's a sad state of affairs, and the human cost is illustrated by scenes of Times employees who have been there for decades packing up their desks following layoffs. It's not just the information that's at risk, the movie reminds us, but people and their jobs and their families. Progress is progress, but sometimes we head in worrying and idiotic directions, and the problem 'Page One' addresses is certainly one of those times; I hope the brakes can be put on before it's too late.
When Johann Gutenberg invented the printing process around 1439, he
probably couldn't foresee the future, where people would consider his
invention redundant and obsolete.
The digital revolution , internet, etc have started to compete with printed media such as the legendary newspaper The New York Times, a newspaper that is depicted in this documentary.
We get follow some of their reporters, the job at the editing office, and also the new approach to the internet and surfpads.
But will The New York Times be able to compete with websites like Wikileaks etc?
And how will they survive in climate with ever descending ad incomes?
Will the internet completely destroy investigating journalism?
Because nowadays anyone can be investigating journalist by simply putting their discoveries on a personal blog or any other type of internetbased platform.
These and many other questions are discussed in this highly interesting documentary about media from one of the most prominent newspapers in the world.
The documentary also touches upon the heavy criticisms that newspaper received during the Judith Miller, Jayson Blair scandals and ever growing question, can we trust media at all?
The only flaws I can think of is that sometimes director Andrew Rossi seem to lack focus, not knowing what he wants to tell, he should made the viewers get closer to some of the people working at the New York Times.
I would love to know more about David Carrs background, a colourful journalist, and some of his co workers background.
But this film should been seen by anyone wanting to know more about media, journalism in this riveting documentary. So viewers who liked Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (2004), The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (2009), Starsuckers (2009) should see this one.
"Page One" promises a look inside the New York Times, but it's also
focused on the question that looms large over the whole industry: how
can print journalism sustain itself? It's a worthy question, and
goodness knows the movie devotes plenty of time to the issue. And if
you're on the side of legacy journalism, then revel in the film's best
character, David Carr (print's staunchest defender). This guy's all
teeth. It's a fun scene watching him shoot down an aggregator during a
But the movie's at its best when it's about the newsroom, and this is compelling stuff: decisions being made during the Wikileaks info dump, Iraq withdrawal, and the laying off o a great deal of the paper's workforce. You do get to be a fly on the wall, and during these scenes, it's good stuff.
Intimidating as it inspires, Page One pushes cameras into one of the highest-pressure environments around and captures a few human moments in the midst of empire-cleaving times. As he explores the prognosis for the Gray Lady, Andrew Rossi also lends light to lives led in pursuit of larger issues, and he illuminates just how frantic days are within the halls and heads of those responsible for the paper of record. Best of all, we're allowed to be entertained by journalists who otherwise appear only in text that has been scraped and stapled by an institution until its fit to print. More than the documentary's macro plunge into the fate of print media, it is these nicks and knacks of picking up Twitter and trying to break through to clarity in reporting that defines Page One as an inside scoop.
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