Page One: Inside The New York Times

David Carr

I’ve been dying to see Page One: Inside The New York Times since it hit the Minneapolis box office a few weeks ago and the documentary recently made it onto my short list blog. THEN I learned yesterday was the last day it had a full docket of showtimes over at the Lagoon theater and this weekend it would only be available at 9:40 p.m. What’s up with that? I expected the documentary would be playing longer given the legacy of the subject matter, but all good things must come to an end, I guess.
After making the deadline to see it last night, I find it unbelievable all the news they were able to fit into just under two hours of film. In reality, there is so much content to focus on about The Gray Lady that I could still be sitting in the theater right now. That would be fine by me. Andrew Rossi and his crew created a voyeuristic experience about The New York Times starting with its coverage of Wikileaks in 2010 and weaving through its history, including publication of the Pentagon Papers and more recent controversies caused by reporters Jayson Blair and Judith Miller.
Everyone on camera had nothing to hide as they gladly read aloud their nutgraphs and allowed interviews with top sources to be filmed. In a more humbling and heartbreaking moment, camera crews captured one day where the paper had to layoff 100 employees.
Then, the voyeurism increases with commentary from folks on the outside at journalism summits with the likes of Arianna Huffington, David Simon and Daily Kos blog creator Markos Moulitsas. All their views are enlightening, and a little bit scary, takes on mainstream media alongside the blog-o-sphere and online journalism. Newspaper moguls Carl Bernstein and Gay Talese, author of The Kingdom and the Power, also made appearances in candid interviews.

Most enjoyable to me was the focus on David Carr and his rise up from being addicted to crack and in jail to being a fixture at The New York Times as a reporter covering trends in media, including at the very paper he works at. Following Carr, the documentary includes scenes shot in Minneapolis as well as in New York as he spent weeks on a piece about the bankruptcy of the Tribune Company. He told his editor he was going to spend two weeks reporting on it and one week writing it. Now there’s a man after my own journalistic heart.
“If you write about the media long enough, eventually you’ll type your way to your own doorstep,” Carr said.
He also said in the documentary that most often when he finishes an interview for an article, the source will ask him, “What’s going to happen to The New York Times?”
As Carr put many people who challenged the institution in their place during the documentary, the answer appears to be nothing, and everything.
The documentary message rested on this: The public role of journalism and ground floor reporting of mainstream, historical media like The New York Times is everlasting.
Any journalist will certainly be fascinated with this glimpse into the fine print of one the most powerful news agencies in the world, but I strongly recommend everyone take a peek at it.

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