Times Documentary Exposes Newspaper in Transition

Anyone who needs to know how newspapers work and how the news business is changing should make plans to see “Page One: Inside the New York Times.” Director Andrew Rossi spent a year inside the NYT newsroom to make the documentary, which debuted in New York last Friday and will be released nationally July 1.

The Times represents the epicenter of events and trends shaking the news world, ranging from the search for a new business model – known as a paywall, getting ahead of the social media curve and the use of controversial news sources such as WikiLeaks. The film starts in 2010 with the WikiLeaks hot potato.

To delve deeper in the issues, Google the name of Bill Keller, who just announced his retirement as The Times executive editor.

“Page One” zeroes in on two contrasting figures on the staff, writes columnist Tommy Christopher of the website Mediaite: “The film focuses on The Times’ Media Desk, particularly on David Carr and Brian Stelter. They are fitting proxies for the audience, as they’re each outsiders, of a sort.”

“Carr is the nucleus around which the film gathers, and his musings form much of the narration. While a 25-year veteran, much of Carr’s career has been with alternative publications, and his backstory reads more like a pulp novel than the resume of a media reporter for the world’s most prestigious newspaper. His emergence from drug addiction and crime give him a hard, weathered edge,” says Christopher.

“Stelter, on the other hand, came to The Times fresh from college, after founding TV Newser. Such a rapid rise lends Stelter an outsider’s perspective of a different sort, the young, new media Turk to Carr’s deeply etched cynic.

Christopher continues: “The future is uncertain, but Rossi sees some hope in the results, so far, from the paper’s implementation of a paywall. “I know that about 150,000 people thus far have opted in,” Rossi says in the film.

“The New York Times is far from perfect (as the film illustrates by detailing some of its darker hours like the Jayson Blair scandal and Judith Miller’s pre-Iraq War reporting), but it’s a bellwether for the health of newspaper journalism, and journalism as a whole. Page One offers some hope for its survival, but not much for a suitable replacement if it doesn’t,” the columnist concludes.