F.I.L.M. of the Week (August 9, 2013)

9 08 2013

With Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos buying up the Washington Post this week, I felt it would be an appropriate time to revisit Andrew Rossi’s documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times.”  The film, which takes a magnifying glass to the paper’s 2010 calendar year, is still fresh even though the news is old.  It’s packed with enough relevant and insightful discussion of the news industry in the age of Twitter that it stands as my pick of the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”

Rossi follows the reporters and editors of The New York Times as they deal with various journalistic challenges, including Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks revelations and the bankruptcy of the Tribune media companies.  Each provide fascinating fodder for thought on the role of the press in maintaing an open society and an informed citizenry.  Rossi’s camera catches all sorts of intriguing behind-the-scenes action to give the film the pop of an “All the President’s Men” (or even 2009’s Oscar-nominated doc “The Most Dangerous Man in the World“).

But as the slogan of the film hints, “Page One” is most concerned with the state of the paper – because as we are aware, we can get the news from a whole host of sources now.  No one is more painfully aware of this than the staff of The New York Times themselves, feeling tangible effects from the digital revolution in tandem with the collapse of their old advertising model.  They show how often we take the news for granted, often times as if it were some kind of public good.

The documentary finds a fun protagonist in David Carr, the paper’s media reporter whose blunt but always intelligent observations on the state of the industry provide a firm center for the film.  He’s an unconventional reporter who took a wild journey to end up at The New York Times, but he’s also a compelling cheerleader for the necessity of conventional journalism and the integrity that comes with it.

Carr and “Page One” make me proud to spend $8 a month to gain access to the newspaper, a decision announced during the timeframe covered in the film.  While I’m sure the monetization of my support has been helpful, the battle clearly isn’t over as I get endless mailers asking me to add home delivery to my subscription package…

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