“Page One” (2011) Documentary Review ~ Revisited

After seeing “Twittamentary,” at the Buffalo Museum of Science for Buffalo Ad Week on October 10, I was reminded of the digital media themes that ran through last year’s documentary “Page One” that shed light on the operations and recent trends at The New York Times and sparked discussions about the state of the digital vs. print debate. This movie came out in July 2011 and at the time it made me realize I don’t read the venerable NYT near enough, although I enjoy perusing through the hefty “Sunday Bundle” for the business, A&E and Sunday Magazine.

NYT Promo Vehicle?

“Page One” is part NYT propaganda machine (in the fashion of CBS’s “Undercover Boss” that stumps for the profiled company in each episode) and part social media dissection of how news is gathered and disseminate. It lends more fuel to the debate of “Where Does Print Go From Here?” Since the NYT has long been viewed as the last bastion of all that was righteous about  traditional journalism, it is somewhat humbling for veteran staff when they were faced with the few high-profile  blackeye incidents from recent years that are included in the narrative.

As it is a video showcase to open up the NYT to the rest of the world (who may have the picture in their minds of a dark, vast, bustling news room), the documentary pulls back the proverbial office curtain to show the editorial office as a bright,  colorful, social forum with a welcoming town hall lobby-esque center stairwell. It almost looks like a department store.

Carr Steals the Show!

David Carr, the gruff, blunt and colorful “gumshoe” reporter steals the show. His commentary and interactions with subjects over the phone are priceless. This guy should go on a spoken word tour or get his own talk show. The other staff portrayed are likeable as well, there is the prodigious blogger who makes his way to the dark side as a true reporter when the Times snags him and the ambitious reporter who heads off to Iraq and is soon promoted to be the bureau news chief. Executive editor, Bill Keller, who recently stepped down from the position, comes off as a calm, insightful leader who has righted the ship in the wake of some of the recent ordeals and cuts faced by staff.

The Times Keep Changing

The chronicling of events from the last three years make the movie a very newsworthy ride, bringing us all up to speed (as if many of us weren’t already?) in the current digital media world that continues to excel and accelerate, albeit through the often self-righteous lens of the NYT. This is an underlying theme amidst the digital discussion that other subjects (i.e. rival publications, bloggers, media critics and the plagiarism scandal) in the film bring to the surface. Thus, you are left with the sense that even the oldest and most trusted of old dogs are forced to learn new tricks, or at least adapt to the new environment that has encroached on its long sacred turf as The Source for news.

If you read the NYT daily or never touch it, you should still see this for what the value of news has meant to the public over the years, the integration of social and traditional media, the ethics involved for those delivering the news and how even seemingly unblemished institutions can fall from grace at times. Carr’s candor and humor keep the tale moving at a riveting pace toward its ultimate end – a not-so-subtle plug for the NYT’s online paid subscription model.

And so it is, “All The Tweets That’s Fit To Print!”

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