Review: Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011)


Anyone with an interest in journalism or the news owes it to themselves to see this film. That's not to say that Page One: Inside the New York Times is an exceptional documentary or mindblowing, but it does a good job of tapping into the current ethos regarding the death of major newspapers around the world. It also gives unparalleled access to the main newsroom of the New York Times, allowing us to see the whole process that occurs before the paper is printed.

In classic bug-on-the-wall documentary style, Andrew Rossi's filmmaking is unobtrusive and merely observes the goings-on within the offices of the world's largest newspaper. Luckily, the year Page One was filmed was a year with quite a lot happening at the New York Times. The entrance of WikiLeaks into the mainstream media, the end of combat operations in Iraq and the introduction of the New York Times online paywall all occur within the year Page One follows.

Amidst the coverage of all the turmoil regarding the future of the Gray Lady, a few key individuals come to the fore. One of them is David Carr, a raspy-voiced media journalist and former crack addict who stands for the classic form of hard journalism. Carr never saw himself as becoming a Times reporter, but he perfectly embodies the integrity that the paper has earned through relentless hard work over the years. He uses Twitter but only out of obligation and defends the importance of the Times in an age when news is so easily accesible online and the news media is becoming just another form of entertainment. The other individual is Brian Stelter, a young new media hotshot who earned his way onto the payroll of the Times through sheer talent. He constantly works with two computer screens open on his desk and lives on Twitter 24/7. However, his adherence to new media doesn't mean Stelter disregards the old. If anything, he just thinks the Times has to change as we begin to see media in new ways.

Both the most compelling and frustrating component of Page One is its exploration of how the Internet is changing the way we interpret the news. With social media platforms and the interconnectedness of the Internet, news travels instantly and waiting for a daily paper is often unnecessary. However, most new media news organizations are for-profit, making the balance of reporting skewed in favour of entertainment news and human interest stories over hard news. This is an interesting dichotomy in the current state of journalism and Page One seems to be making a fairly clear argument for the necessity of both platforms. However, the way in it which the film itself reports on this is unfocused and hyperactive. If anything, the film seems to be championing New York Times-style journalism while tellings its non-fiction narrative very much like a website. This isn't a huge problem, but it merely makes the film more of a journal than a deep exploration of the current state of the news.

Page One: Inside the New York Times is a compelling documentary. Anyone who reads the New York Times or has an interest in the plight of newspapers should make it their goal to see the film. Some of the information on display may seem a little like journalistic techno-babble, but for the most part, this window into the inner workings of the New York Times is more than illuminating.

7 out of 10

Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011)

Directed by Andrew Rossi; written by Kate Novack and Andrew Rossi.