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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011)

  • Rated R: Language 
  • 91 mins
  • HD
  • I rated 4 stars (I Really Liked It)
Initial Thoughts:
I'm sure most of you have heard a lot about this documentary; I surely have over the past year. Page One chronicles (pun intended) the venerable, but old, New York Times as the forces of change rain down upon it like a thousand arrows. The film is also an insider's look into the legendary establishment.

Quite interesting, coupled with parts of boredom. Many of the writers there come off as entrenched and stentorian advocates of a by-gone era. It stands to reason: they are the pinnacle of a profession built upon 20th century technology -- though they have to come to terms with 21st century media consumers.

One of the more memorable parts of the film, is when the ex-drug addict media writer visits the offices of VICE (which happens to be one of my favorite publications). VICE is notorious for doing stories other outlets don't want to touch, or if they have, not in the visceral way VICE did it. The VICE founders are explaining what they do, and why when the crotchety old guy from NYT rips into them for glossing over the Time's reporting. The VICE guys back down and go on with the interview. What they could have said is: sure the Times reported stories of genocide and cannibalism from the war-torn African country, but what VICE did is send a camera there and film the children holding up human organs still dripping with blood, they filmed the beach covered in human feces, because the country doesn't have the proper infrastructure to provide sanitation. That is more powerful than black ink on white paper. But alas, the impenetrable facade of the NYT deflects blows that would easily break others.

By the end of the film, you can tell the staff is nearing it's breaking point; they've been told countless ways over countless days how the biggest newspaper in the country will go under. You get the sense that what ever happens is probably better than the sense of dread filling them then.

Page One is great at showing how the old stalwarts of media are trying to deal with a changing landscape. It may not be the most interesting story ever told, and I think that's fine. We are talking about a newspaper here, and no matter how hard the writers and workers at the NYT try and convince you, it really is just a newspaper.