Thursday, July 14, 2011

Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times (2011)

Andrew Rossi's Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times brings nothing new to the debate on the possible survival or death of print media. It nonetheless is necessary, because Rossi's team gained an unprecedented access to the New York Times (NYT), one of the most respected newspapers in the world.

We follow the media reporters David Carr, former TV blogger turned journalist Brian Stelter, Tim Arango and Bruce Headlam, the NYT' editor specialized in media and marketing. The documentary talks about American newspapers who ceased publication such as the Rocky Mountain News during the 2009 economic crisis and continues by asking us this question: is the New York Times' demise approaching?

We hear about the layoffs that affected the NYT following 2009, the scandals that affected the NYT. We can think of Jayson Blair's fabricated (or plagiarized) stories and Judith Miller's false articles on the development of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq starting in 2002. Behind this exploration lies this question: what's the future of news given the existence of the Internet?

From interviews to interviews, we see the confrontation between real journalists and non-journalistic web sites (, According to those working for the latter, "real" journalists don't do their job correctly and that emerging web sites actually bring what people "want to hear about". In a nutshell, call it citizen journalism.

Unfortunately, Rossi and the real journalists he interviews miss the opportunity to open debates. If citizen journalists see their work as being equal to that of real journalists, why don't they try to vie for a Pullitzer Prize in journalism? Are citizen journalists also willing to be slapped as much as Judith Miller et al in case a mistake finds its way in a story they write?

Moreover, even though Page One points out that people expect online news to be free, it fails to observe the hypocrisy prevailing from some consumers. If some would like to pay to have a premium cable network like HBO on their cable bill to see edgy TV series, why don't they want to pay to read a few news stories that might have an added value such as investigations or exclusive stories? Need I remind you that France, with a population of 66 million inhabitants, can afford to have an online media, Mediapart, which charges for the access of all its news stories!

Obviously, Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times isn't a perfect documentary. However, it has the merit of showing us, in a way that is not complacent, that all is not well in the media industry.

Rating: 3.5/5

Origin:USA (2011)
Length:88 minutes
Screenplay:Kate Novack and Andrew Rossi
Director:Andrew Rossi
Starring:David Carr, Tim Arango and Brian Stelter

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