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Friday, July 1, 2011
Page One: Inside The New York Times
News, And An Existence Fit For Deliberation
Carr, Media Investigative Reporter for the Times at work during Andrew Rossi's
documentary "Page One: Inside The New York Times".
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
July 1, 2011
Andrew Rossi gets unprecedented
access to the newsroom and offices of The New York Times and delivers a
fascinating, moving documentary about journalism, fact-checking, reputation and
the changing face of news in "Page One: Inside The New York Times". The
film expands its release across the country today.
For a year (2009-2010), Mr. Rossi follows various figures from the Times and
finds a news organization in a state of flux. David Carr, the newspaper's
media reporter, is on the trail of several stories, including sexual harassment
allegations against several employees under businessman Sam Zell and the Tribune
Company. "Page One" sounds a cautionary tone about business compromising
news, and the sordid details of Mr. Zell's troubled company is a prime example.
In a separate episode Mr. Carr defends The New York Times in a memorable
response to an executive he interviews from instant-news media fledgling company
As a contrast to news lifers like Mr. Carr "Page One" glimpses younger reporters
who will help shape the Grey Lady's future. Brian Stelter is introduced as
a kind of dyed-in-the-wool, old-soul newspaper man, having started in journalism
as the founder of a news blog. He has his finger on the pulse of the
explosive WikiLeaks story that became a cause célèbre, and appears to have a
firm grasp of his role as well as what news is supposed to do.
If you ever wanted to know what it's like to spend time in a newsroom, Mr. Rossi
takes you there. We get a fly-on-the-wall look at discussions between Mr.
Carr and the newspaper's sharp, thoughtful media desk editor Bruce Headlam.
There are some excellent, noteworthy exchanges. Small moments are bigger
than you expect. On a television we see a most fascinating and troubling
moment: an NBC News on-air declaration in 2010 that "this (its own news report)
constitutes the official announcement" of the Pentagon's pullout of final U.S.
ground forces from Iraq. Reporter Richard Engel of NBC News is seen
embedded with a U.S. military convoy in Iraq. The conversation between Mr.
Headlam and a senior editor surrounding this disturbing episode is priceless.
Watching "Page One" gave me the feeling of wanting to work at The Times, to ask
the questions that the documentary's participants ask each other. To get
to know the people who shape the news and make decisions on it. Some of
the relationships between Times editors and reporters in this extremely
stressful business are intimate and deep. There's a strong sense of
camaraderie. The farewell held for reporter Tim Arango, sent off to the
Middle East to open and head a news bureau there, exemplifies this.
I find it hard to believe however, that in his year of shadowing The Times Mr.
Rossi didn't uncover any shouting matches or tensions in this closely-knit
incubator of a news establishment. Were any combustible episodes edited
out to avoid sensationalist or soap-operatic bents that might disrupt the
documentary's tone? Or is this the way The Times really is? Were
omissions of discord a precondition of Mr. Rossi's 12-month tenure?
A scene from "Page One: Inside The New York Times".
"Page One", a multi-faceted look at journalism and its economic realities, is
best when it examines the future of news and the competing philosophies of those
in the Times and those interviewed outside it. To his credit, Mr. Rossi
avoids churning out a puff-piece on the nation's most respected paper of record,
and gives both the Times and its detractors a fair hearing. Within the
newsroom, introspection works well as employees at the venerable paper recall
its undignified moments (Judith Miller and Jayson Blair.)
There are also personal stories. Mr. Carr offers up an unvarnished look at
his own struggles with serious drug addiction, and raising his children as a
single father. This moment is moving, even heroic, though Mr. Carr
certainly doesn't intend for it to be.
The ever-growing industry of media news personalities is an ocean that Mr. Rossi
avoids wading in as "Page One" sticks to a "just-the-facts-ma'am" approach in
its storytelling. There's never a dull moment during the 89 minutes you
spend with people you may have been reading regularly, and to see their faces
and get to know them beyond the words they write brings additional context, if
not closeness, to them.
"Page One" is often riveting and exciting, sometimes packing as much drama and
tension as great films like Michael Mann's "The Insider", which chronicled the
CBS Corporate/CBS News fight over Brown & Williamson and Jeffrey Wigand for the
famous "60 Minutes" piece in the 1990s on Mr. Wigand. "Page One" is as
vivid, if not more so, than "All The President's Men", which recalled Bob
Woodard and Carl Bernstein's coverage of the Watergate break-in at the
Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972.
Ever watchable, "Page One" is a marvelous exposé that doesn't waste time in awe
of its subject matter. Wonderfully detailed, rich and entertaining, the
documentary gives a sense of the pressures of providing timely (and more
importantly, accurate) news, regardless of 24-hour-cable news cycles and online
challenges. I was enthralled by the deliberation over news content and
decision-making. I was moved by the long-serving Times employees whose
lives change dramatically after layoffs.
"Page One" shows what really happens to middle-aged people who are suddenly laid
"Larry Crowne", albeit a film I highly
recommend for its sweetness and enthusiasm, if nothing else. "Page One" is
an education in news, ideas, philosophies and newsroom know-how, and easily
satisfies as one of the year's most alive and dynamic experiences on the big
With free reign Mr. Rossi uncovers a confident newsroom staff in their
assessments of The Times as a viable institution amidst the Internet's rapid
realigning of news and instant news content delivery. Will The New York
Times survive the changes around and within it? The question is posed
several times during "Page One". While the economic climate has made many
newspapers casualties in a bloodletting that continues, the Times remains as
tall, strong, flawed and storied as ever.
With: New York Times employees -- some you know, others you may not -- and media
people you will likely immediately recognize.
(This review also can be read
here at San Francisco Indie Movie Examiner)
"Page One" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for
language including some sexual references. The film's running time is one
hour and 29 minutes.
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