Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011)

Directed by Andrew Rossi

The state of journalism is in some what of a flux right now, and I am not sure how many people recognize that, or even if they do, how many people are concerned about it. Personally, as someone who has considered the profession for my career, I am concerned about the state of journalism and how it will eventually evolve in the day and age of blogging and social networking. With the advent of the internet and the technology surge creating online websites and access to stories through social networks, tablets and even smartphones, the print edition of many newspapers has been in jeopardy, or for many newspapers, already extinct.

The masthead that leads the country, if not the world, in the crusade to provide accurate, pertinent and important information to the people is The New York Times, an institution in the profession since forever. Everything gets compared to the quality of the Times and often the stories they produce are those which set the agenda for news around the country and globe. But with major newspapers around the country failing due to plummeting ad revenue, the Times are not immune to the effects of the ever changing system. The case of Jayson Blair, a Times reporter caught for massive amounts of blatant plagiarism, is a perfect example of the strain put on the Times by the new culture of journalism.

In his new film, documentary filmmaker Andrew Rossi examines the state of The New York Times and the things they are doing to protect against what everyone always said was impossible: the bankruptcy of The New York Times. This story was very personal to me, and very fascinating to watch. The issues brought up in the film are very important in my eyes. With the grow of citizen journalists and bloggers, it is hard to see the future of the institutionalized profession as we have known it. And with the growth of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, news is getting out faster than ever before, which creates an even bigger issue: accountability.

Newspapers have always been at the forefront of choosing which news is important enough to print and disperse to the public, but now there is almost a cafeteria style of news gathering, with stories coming from all over and from everyone and their mother. But this also means that there is no longer the system in place to hold journalists outside the system accountable for their coverage, which can easily become libelous, slanderous and potentially inaccurate, which is dangerous given how swiftly news is now consumed by the public. Rossi’s film does a good job of bringing these issues up and showing how the Times is dealing with it to survive the current circumstances.

However, as a documentary film I found it to be too unfocused overall and lacking flow. Rossi seems to jump between the issues and subjects very lightly, providing little in the way of strong transitions. There is also the inclusion of a few asides that seem to add little to what the film is trying to investigate. I am not quite sure why David Carr, though certainly an important journalist at the Times, is featured so prominently while we get very little of anyone else really. The idea of the film turns out to be much more important than the actual finished product, but Rossi should be applauded for at least bringing the issue up because even if the finished product is a bit lackluster, it still brings the issues to the forefront for its viewers to consider.

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