Review: “Page One” Is Headline Worthy

As Times media reporter David Carr notes in Andrew Rossi's new documentary, “Page One: Inside The New York Times,” people have been speculating about the death of The New York Times pretty much since its birth, more than 150 years ago.

Still, the advent of digital media has made Chicken Littles out of most everyone over the age of 40 in the media business. Ask a musician, photographer, writer, reporter, filmmaker about the advent of the iPod, Twitter, Facebook, and the like and you’re bound to get a certain amount of teeth-gnashing. But what these folks are really worried about is not the future of news or photography or music—they’re worried about how they’re going to make money in this new environment, which, hey is a perfectly legitimate concern.

Again, however, as Carr notes, “I’ve been a single parent on welfare—this is nothing,” when asked if he’s concerned about the state of the news media.

Throughout the film, Carr’s ire is raised by any number of interlopers, from the guys at Vice magazine, to Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos to Michael Wolfe, founder of the news aggregator It’s Wolfe who is the target of Carr’s best zinger, as the venerable Timesman holds up a screenshot of newser’s home page with all the stories and photos from outside news source cut out—the piece of paper Carr holds aloft makes lace look sturdy by comparison.

Standing alongside and opposite Carr is Brian Stelter, a formerly anonymous media blogger at Towson State who was uncovered and then recruited by the Times. Watching Stelter work is all you should need to assuage your concerns about the future of newsgathering. Stelter sits at his desk in front of two open laptops, with a TV on while talking on the phone, and he tweets north of three dozen times a day. He is proof that the advent of the digital age is not the death knell for journalism, but the next step forward.

If there’s a gaping hole in the narrative of the NYT’s tortured transition from old media to new media, it’s Rossi and completely ignoring the paper’s first, ill-conceived, attempt at putting up a paywall. The move not only angered readers, but briefly took a big bite out of the Grey Lady’s cherished importance as other online news sources began linking to the paper less so as not to frustrate their readers with subscription-only links.

Rossi originally set out to make a movie about Carr, the film too often let's the reporter's voice drive the message, Rossi still manages to bring us voices from many sides of the debate, investing "Page One" with a rich and often funny 360-degree view of the growing pains plaguing the media.

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