To some, The New York Times seems an aged emperor stripped of his clothing, a solipsistic shadow of a once-great institution. For others, America's newspaper of record still evokes a certain reverence — it is still the Times, after all. (Full disclosure: I tend toward the latter, for better or worse.) Whatever your perspective, director Andrew Rossi's Page One: Inside The New York Times is unlikely to change it.
The Gray Lady's detractors will find plenty of self-importance and hand-wringing melodrama over the broadsheet-in-chief's hypothetical demise. Admirers will likely share the subjects' concerns about the future, while also reveling in the chance to peek inside the Times' headquarters and fawn over its glorious façade. (The film grants us several glimpses of the building, but they are few and should have lingered a bit longer.)
Those expecting a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style exploration of the place will be disappointed, though: Page One is more about showing the Times working than explaining how it works. More specifically, it is about how, and if, the Times will continue to work at a time when daily papers themselves have begun to seem like old news.
With lingering doom as an ever-present theme — there are times when talk of a pale horse would not seem inappropriate — the doc follows a variety of storylines and characters, and attempts to do so in roughly 90 minutes. The Times' own review (written by Bloomberg's Michael Kinsley, presumably to avoid a conflict on par with that of a father evaluating his son's T-ball team) called the film "a mess." I'll not go that far, but there is certainly a lot going on.
Among the overlapping narratives: WikiLeaks; former Times reporter Judith Miller's faulty reporting; Jayson Blair's fictional (or stolen) reporting; media takeovers (Comcast/NBC); media collapses (the Tribune Co.); layoffs at the Times and elsewhere. The cast of characters is composed primarily of those working the company's media desk. Chief among them is David Carr, a former drug addict, veteran journalist and lovable curmudgeon who is responsible for the film's best moments.
Carr is juxtaposed with blogger-turned-Timesman Brian Stelter, a new-school type stunned by the very idea of any journalist lacking a Twitter account. Carr's comment on Stelter illustrates the increasingly apparent anxiety of the ink-stained-wretch class: "I still can't get over the feeling that Brian Stelter was a robot assembled in the basement of The New York Times to come and destroy me."
As the film nears its end, Carr is wrapping up a contentious story on the woes of the Tribune Co. One telling clip shows Tribune Co. chairman Sam Zell stating confidently, "I'm not a newspaper guy — I'm a businessman." Ironic, as the company would later file for bankruptcy, but also illustrative of the question facing the Times and its print brethren going forward: Does survival, in the end, come down to a choice between good business and good news?
In a bid to have it both ways, the Times has constructed a paywall (however porous) for online content that by many accounts has been a success. And you can now follow David Carr on Twitter.
If the greatest pleasure of the movie is seeing "DiCaprio be beautiful again", something about…
worth reading on the subject: an interview with Kubrik assistant and friend.
But an outstanding, penetrating comment!
On the contrary: I can't imagine anybody watching ROOM 237 and *not* wanting to see…
This is worth seeing for any fan(atic) of "The Shining", but the film "Making The…