Page One–A Movie Review

Page One PhotoFor those of you who love the smell of newsprint with your morning coffee, I have a movie for you: Page One: Inside The New York Times.

This film was nominated for the 2012 Critics’ Choice Award in the category of Best Documentary Feature, and was also listed as one of the 50 Best Movies of 2011 by Paste Magazine.

The gist of the film? It’s essentially a fly-on-the-wall look at The New York Times and the people who put it together. Through four memorable journalists who work on the Media Desk, the film examines how this prestigious newspaper, and others like it, are struggling to survive in the age of digital information. With the Internet surpassing print as the main source of news, and newspapers going bankrupt all over the country, Page One chronicles this grande dame and the media industry in the midst of its greatest turmoil.

Page One delivers the perfect mix of journalism, politics, publishing and all the people who work with or depend on it. You might call this film a love letter to a dying art form, the American newspaper, and a celebration of the traditional values of journalism in a time when our need for free, immediate information is chiseling away at that honored discipline.

David Carr at the New York TimesThis film is worth seeing for David Carr alone. An irascible media columnist, single parent, former crack addict and welfare recipient, Carr pumps this film full of verve with his intelligence, wit and his “No BS” approach to reporting. I say move over Brad Pitt and George Clooney–it’s David Carr who really deserves an Oscar, even if he is just portraying himself.

The other unlikely star of the film is the imposing Times headquarters designed by Renzo Piano. Even though the newspaper sold the building in 2009 and leased part of it back because it was on shaky financial ground, it’s hard not to be impressed by this gleaming monument. In many ways the building represents all that is right and wrong with the industry in the midst of rising new media.

New York Times Headquarters

If I had any criticism of Page One, it would be that it’s a bit scattered, following many intriguing threads, yet never tying them all up into one cohesive bow. Still, news junkies, writers, photographers, and anybody who cares about the future of media will appreciate this smart film.

My other criticism is less a criticism and more a personal wish: I wish the movie had focused on other sections of the newspaper as well–partly because we’ve worked with so many of them over the years. I wish we could have glimpsed our colleagues in the Travel, Business, Week in Review, or Arts & Leisure sections, or even the Magazine, who have all hired Jeffrey over the  years and licensed his photography and our agency’s photography. I would have loved to have heard their thoughts about the state of the industry and where they think it’s heading in the digital age.

My rating: 4 stars out of 5

Film details: Directed by Andrew Rossi, Written by Kate Novak and Andrew Rossi. Released by Magnolia Pictures. Running time 1 hour 28 minutes. Out on DVD and Blu-Ray. Get your hands on it via Netflix, iTunes or any of the usual video outlets. Photos courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

If any of you have seen the movie, I’d love to hear what you think. If not, I’m curious to know what you think the future of media brings for newspapers. Is it possible for them to stay vital and solvent? Drop me a comment and share your two cents.

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15 thoughts on “Page One–A Movie Review

  1. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve heard of it and definitely want to see it.

    I have a different perspective on newspapers. I’m a reporter/staff writer for a weekly newspaper. We cover the local town and county. Many think the so-called “community newspapers” have a better chance of surviving because they deliver news that people can’t really find elsewhere.

    Our local daily covers a city and the four surrounding counties, and they don’t provide nearly the news that they used to. Ditto with the local TV station, which covers an even larger area. I have had plenty of people tell me that they learn more about what’s going on with county and town government from our weekly than the daily.

    That said, our parent company is really pushing the website. We have an e-edition available plus most of the content is put on the web for consumption.

    I still love the print newspaper, but I admit I get a lot of my news from the web. I hate to see the local dailies having problems, because there are many people–older, those who live in rural areas with little or no access to broadband–who depend on paper.

  2. I have not scene the movie but it sounds worth a view. I’m a movie junkie, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine ( I have a few.. ). Although, as when I open a book, if I am not captured in the first few minutes or frames I will abandon the film. As for your questions and even though I have not scene the movie I think the jury is still out. I am a hybrid. I like having the option and still read both. I don’t think the industries are reacting fast enough and hanging on to their old ways…

  3. Becky, It’s a treat to read a movie review in your blog. This post was not about the review of the movie, but for me it was more than that. It made me think, what’s the future of print media, when the electronic media is growing so much & so fast? It also made me think that, if our next generation can ever enjoy that morning tea, with a piece of paper in their hands having the whole world in it?
    Personally, I would not like the electronic media to replace the print media. Both may do the same job for us, but the charm in both of them are different. To be honest, I preferred reading something in book rather than in PDF format. May be I am sounding old fashioned, but that’s what I prefer. 🙂
    I can’t wait to watch this movie. Let’s hope it will be available to us very soon. Thank you Becky for sharing such a wonderful thought, in form of a movie review.

    • Thanks, Arindam. I don’t think anybody wants print media to go away, but it’s a challenge figuring out how to make it work financially when so many people are switching to digital media. I hope the movie heads your way soon!

  4. One of my favorite activities is reading my LA Times Sunday paper–and my 8-year-old loves stretching her Silly Putty images from it.

    • Print newspapers are as much a ritual for me as an important source of information. There’s nothing like a Sunday morning with coffee and The NYT. And I love the Silly Putty action at your house! I completely forgot about how much fun that was as a kid.

  5. Thanks to an addiction to Gilmore Girls, my 13-year-old daughter’s dream is to go to Yale, become a journalist, and work for the New York Times, so this movie will be a “must see” for us. I didn’t know it existed, so thank you for that. Apparently, not a lot of youth are interested in becoming a writer. When I called our local paper this week to ask about my daughter job shadowing there for a day for a school assignment, I was shocked to receive the response, “We’ve never done that before.” My daughter stated that most kids her age still have childhood dreams of doctor, lawyer, or astronaut!

    Yes, the newspaper is a dying art. I am guilty of creating the demise by getting much of my news via Internet and just skimming the local paper to see who got arrested. In my opinion, the print media industry must adapt, and quickly, to stay afloat.

    Also, thank you for making me learn a new word. I had to look up irascible. ;0)

    • I love that your daughter is interested in becoming a journalist! That’s a rare bird at her age. I’m sure you set a great example with your writing.

      I think we’re all guilty of contributing to the demise of print papers. Who doesn’t like the ease of reading headlines and skimming the web? BUT, as the film suggests, if we don’t support the journalists who actually get out there and dig up fresh, original stories instead of just regurgitating content, the media will be in a very ugly place. I ran across a funny quote the other day, “If we subscribe to The NYT, does that make us philanthropists?” Food for thought.

  6. Becky, thank you for the review. This is a film I definitely want to see. As you know, my grandfather was a newspaper man and I started out as one. I love papers! Unfortunately, their future looks bleak and you know all the reasons. Will it change? I don’t know. Should it change? I don’t know that, either. Again, thanks for making me aware of this film. How is your training coming? I expect you to finish number one in your age group! HF

    • I thought of you when I wrote this review, remembering that you and your grandfather were both newspaper men. I think you’ll appreciate this film. It does look bleak for newspapers, but I cannot imagine our country without The New York Times. Of course, I never imagined our country without Kodak either. Hmmm.

      • Oh yeah, I forgot to answer your question about training. It’s going well. Only 2 1/2 more weeks until the big event! Now I just have to re-charge my fundraising, which is always harder than training.

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