“Print Media is Dead!” Well, not exactly dead but it is slowly dying. Numerous newspapers across the country have gone out of business since the Internet grew exponentially, providing immediate content distribution via a free source model. Some of the largest newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times (and its sister publications) have been forced into bankruptcy to protect themselves, resulting in a much smaller version of the paper with less than stellar content. Andrew Rossi’s documentary, Page One: Inside the New York Times goes inside the largest newspaper in the United States, The New York Times, to document the effects the Internet, and changing media platforms, have had on the paper, as well as seeking answers to the question that has been circulating for years amidst the changing tides of media distribution, “When will the New York Times cease to exist?”
The answer to whether the New York Times will ever cease to exist may be at the forefront of the documentary but it is the elitist attitude of the staff members, most notably in the film David Carr, that changes the landscape of the documentary from a piece on the death of print media to the survival of a “media brand”. Over the course of a few years, and moving between time without a consistent vision, the film displays the ways in which the paper has reported on online news, being developed from other sources, as well as their own struggles to understand the new medium. The Wikileaks scandal over released strike footage from Baghdad is one of the more interesting, and notable, segments of the film. The conversations between seasoned journalists and editor’s at the Times over whether an edited version of the footage was legitimate news coverage, and whether the story itself proved appropriate without the assistance of a third eye to explain it to the mass audience is a riveting segment for anyone interested in news propaganda and the obscuring of reality in the media. Only made more interesting when the Times forms a partnership of sorts with Wikileaks in the same year.
The documentary cannot escape the elitist vision though, the secure belief that the Times will always be the quintessential news source and most trusted authority for news coverage with reporters in the field and editor’s to oversee how/when/what/why news is covered. To its credit, the film does document briefly the scandals around Jayson Blair and his plagiarism, as well as Judith Blair and her faulty reporting about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (Remember Green Zone?). Two black marks, of many, on the New York Times’ credibility scale. While the film boasts interesting segments throughout it is not a groundbreaking achievement nor does it supply the feeling that you are in fact seeing inside the New York Times more so than you could on a regular daily basis–or quite frankly, if you would even care to outside of the documentary.
The New York Times will never cease to exist, as it changes with the tides of media to evolve past its print edition, but whether the success of bridging the gap between print and online will prove positive is something the documentary cannot answer as only time will tell. Page One: Inside the New York Times is merely a window into an institution that is striving to remain relevant to a new generation and media landscape, with spotty results.