The title of Andrew Rossi's often fascinating, sometimes frustrating documentary is only partially accurate. While Page One does give us glimpses into The New York Times inner-workings and access to some of the people who work there, its scattershot narrative structure never fully illuminates how stories make their way to the front page of what is still considered the most important media entity in journalism.
Rossi's fly-on-the-wall approach instead largely focuses on whether traditional print media can survive in a world now dominated by 24-hour television news networks and the ever-expanding reach of the Internet. Rossi and crew do this by centering on The Times' media desk, which was created in 2008 to cover not only the rapidly evolving general media landscape but also The Times itself.
It's not long before we meet The Times fiftysomething media columnist/reporter David Carr, a sharp but grizzled former junkie (and alt-weekly editor) who quickly becomes the film's defender of old-school journalism and its de facto narrator. On the other end of the spectrum is Brian Stelter, a social-media-savvy twentysomething who is supposedly the first writer to be hired by The Times specifically because of the work he did on a personal blog.
Several other journalistic figures are woven into the narrative — from The Times Executive Editor Bill Keller and former Times writer Gay Talese to The New Yorker Editor David Remnick and new-media guru Clay Shirky — but it's Stelter's and Carr's handling of two controversies (the rise of WikiLeaks and the collapse of the Tribune Co.) that perfectly encapsulate traditional journalism's two greatest challenges: How to use and make sense of emerging outside sources/quasi-publishers, and how to retain a workable business model for the kind of labor-intensive, fact-based journalism a thriving democracy needs for its citizens to stay well informed.
hopeful finale, which features Keller addressing The Times'
staff to announce the paper's Pulitzer Prize winners, can't hide the
depressing fact that there are no doubt more challenges to come. Grade: B
Opens July 15. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.