Friday, July 1, 2011
Page One: Inside the New York Times
No one would disagree that the American printing press is in
a big crisis like never before. Newspapers go out of
business like a wildfire burning out of control. But that
doesn't mean there are less "news" feeds nowadays. To the
contrary, the sources of news media are more crowded than
ever. I bet you should have no trouble to answer the
question about where you normally get your news from when
your juggle your electronic gadgets. However, how credible
is the content you are reading? More importantly, how often
do you ask that question in the rapidly moving information age?
I, not alone by any count, am very skeptical about what I read online or even in print about news, unless I can trace a report back to institutions that I have not lost my faith yet, such as The New York Times. However, will The New York Times survive from tough challenges in the news business? Director Andrew Rossi's engrossing documentary "Page One: Inside the New York Times" (USA 2010 | 88 min.) takes an intimate look at news reporting inside one of the oldest empires in the press.
In a fly-on-the-wall style, the filmmakers observe how news stories get discovered, followed, and eventually printed by the diligent work from the reporters at The Times. Over a period of more than a year, the filmmakers follow four journalists at the Media Desk including a charismatic hoarse-voiced straight talker David Carr, an energetic fast paced Brian Stelter, a media reporter who later becomes Baghdad Bureau Chief Tim Arango, and their no-nonsense editor Bruce Headlam.
It is absolutely fascinating to learn how these journalists strive for excellence in news reporting by observing their daily operations, during a trying time for printing press and at a time of war when WikiLeaks takes the headlines.
Although the title gives the impression that the film is about how a story appears on the front page of The New York Times, it's not. David Carr steals the movie with his candid and opinion-ed remarks about journalism, and many other things. He becomes the most interesting and fascinating character in the film that actually holds the film together.
On the front page of The New York Times, it claims: "All the News That's Fit to Print." Obviously, that requires the paper's existence for the news to be printed. Yet, the existence of the paper is nothing short of struggle. Where will we get factual original reporting if the Times flips its belly, which might really happen?
If nothing else, this film is thought provoking about news reporting and news consumption when more and more news aggregators flood the internet, while less and less fact-checking in-depth investigation.
The New York Times' new editor Jill Abramson says: "In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion. If The Times said it, it was the absolute truth."
Let's hope the truth be held.
"Page One: Inside the New York Times," a Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media release, opens on Friday, July 1, 2011 at Bay Area theaters. The film was also shown at the 54th San Francisco International Film Festival.