Page One: Inside the New York Times

3 Jul

Title: Page One: Inside the New York Times
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Andrew Rossi
Writers: Kate Novack and Andrew Rossi
Starring: 
David Carr, Brian Stelter, Bruce Headlam, Richard Pérez-Peña, Tim Arango, Bill Keller
MPAA Rating: 
R, language including some sexual references
Runtime: 
88 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 
75%

 

When you go pretty much anywhere in the world and ask people to name a newspaper that’s not made in their own country, I will bet that a very large portion of those you ask will answer with “The New York Times”, because that’s the newspaper that’s just become emblematic worldwide, and so a documentary with very cool access inside the rooms where this newspaper is made was something I was really looking forward to. The paper is obviously going through the very difficult transition most news outlets are still going through nowadays, and that’s the full adaptation of itself to meet the demands of new media in order to face the harsh fact that printed press is in a steep decline. And while I didn’t really think Page One: Inside the New York Times really worked as a hugely fascinating exploration of the newspaper, I thought it worked real nicely as a look at today’s newspaperman.

And that all happens because of one man, and that’d be David Carr. Now this guy seems like a character from a movie, that reporter that you just love, a guy with a distinct voice, all the right moral codes to work in the business he does, and a seeming understanding of how everything around him works and doesn’t work. And we spend a lot of time with this guy, he’s sort of like the hero in our story here, and watching him report on a story and just doing his thing makes for some very good moments in this film. We also get to meet a few other people in this story, and to see them share their opinions about this new era newspapers are approaching, in which print journalism is collapsing and the way news are to be approached is in a totally different state than what they were used to.

Cool as that may be though, I felt like there definitely was something missing from this documentary, like there was just something not there for me to really think it was great. And I think that’s the fact that it didn’t really have a theme to it, I mean yes, it’s about one of the world’s leading newspapers, and it gives us looks into some very interesting people who perform tasks for it, but it doesn’t really have a theme to it, it’s just a free-roaming exercise, though certainly a very entertaining one. It’s exhilarating and even scary to watch the people who run this Grey Lady entering a time in which their set of standards are being threatening by the internet and a generation that wants their news in easy-to-read words and in gossipy form, and just hearing the opinions of the people who work here is fascinating enough even though the documentary doesn’t really ever finds its true north.

But it’s all good, I mean, even though it never really finds a theme to stick to and develop fully, this is still very entertaining stuff we get to watch here, to see how differently they have to tackle the WikiLeaks stuff now than what they did four decades ago with Pentagon Papers issue, to see these guys working during a time in which the state of their business is very much up for grabs. And while Page One: Inside the New York Times had supposedly unlimited access to some very cool areas inside the newsrooms for a whole year, it doesn’t really feel like this super secret stuff is coming out, nor does this one really take sides. It’s not denunciatory of the newspaper, but it certainly isn’t a love letter either, but we don’t really need it to be, there are headlining stories we all know about here to keep us entertained, and a few very colorful personalities to get to know, Mr. Carr being the oldschool one, a reporter’s reporter, and then the other side of things being shown by Brian Stelter, an equally hard-working guy, but who was hired by the Times because of his personal blog and lives and dies by Twitter and can’t fathom why more reporters don’t use the social media tool.

I liked this film though, I really did, and I’ll certainly recommend it to anyone who seems attracted by what its title proposes. But I found this one to be sort of like what they wanted to believe reading the Times on an iPad would be like, a device that certainly had all the components there, but because they’d be just a tap of a fingertip away to come to fruition you’d be tempted into click all of them at the same time. That’s what happened here, because there was so much stuff for director Andrew Rossi to touch upon he tried to do that and forgot to really focus its attention fully on any one thing, and some of the stuff is compelling, but some is just self-important and doesn’t do the trick, and I can’t help but feel that if Page One: Inside the New York Times had chosen to spend more time just following David Carr around we would’ve gotten a much better end result.

Grade: B

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