Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Film Yap: Page One: Inside the New York Times

Lately playing to a niche audience is playing to a geeky audience. Aspects of time travel or video game humor would seemingly only appeal to those who are already emerged in that sort of interest. “Page One” plays to a different niche audience: journalists.

If there was ever a film for journalists—that wasn’t “All the President’s Men”—it’s this. “Page One” spends a year covering The New York Times covering stories. The documentary crew was lucky to have a story like WikiLeaks occur during their scope because that was exciting to see the team discover and ethically deal with covering the information.

That story was a good backbone for a portion of the documentary, but the real story is the paper itself. During this unsettling transition of media, a look at the iconic giant of journalism is a brilliant way to cover it. It’s one thing for the Small Town Gazette to be in trouble, what about The New York Times?

Their discussion from “old media” to “new media” is one of the more intelligent debates in recent memory. Too many people treat the internet as the destruction of everything, but it is a transition. David Carr emerges as the most enigmatic figure of the documentary. He’s a former crackhead turned one of the most brilliant reporters on their staff. Carr’s story is fascinating and well covered in the movie, but the more exciting parts were to see him at work. His snobbery towards Twitter then his obsession is such a strong case for the necessary of adaptation in this business.

One of the greatest aspects of a fictional narrative or a documentary is to see people who are good at their jobs. There is an amazing segment where Carr is working on a vicious exposé that was made possible by damn good journalism. The speed in which they work never compromise their intensity towards the quality of writing. The film occasionally ventures out towards newer sites like Gawker or hears from people like Arianna Huffington on a panel. We don’t get to see their day-to-day activity, but they are decently represented when the film’s true subject is the Times.

They don’t know where they will be in fifteen years. They don’t even know what they will look like. What’s important is that they make each paper the best it and look just far enough in the future to try to have a guess what’s coming up. It’s a scary and emotional time and “Page One” does an excellent job depicting the fight and what needs to be persevered.

The DVD and Blu-Ray has a number of additional interviews with fantastic quotes from people like Carl Bernstein and Brian Williams. There are a number of short segments where journalists and others are reacting to the documentary. They are all positive, which was initially off-putting because I figured the documentary would want a fuller stance. Then again, the filmed segments are screenings for journalists and Q&As where the key audience was in attendance. Their reaction isn’t just praise for their friends, but a very genuine argument for what is best for journalism.

Film: 4.5 Yaps

Extras: 4 Yaps


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