Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Doc chronicles NY Times' angst

Page One by Andrew Rossi takes us inside the contemporary world of The New York Times. And by contemporary I mean that in the widest sense. Not only is this documentary (opening July 1 at the Main) a rare peek inside the Times’ fortress. It examines the world’s most famous newspaper from the perspective of the onslaught of digital media challenging traditional newspapers, of which hundreds have closed over the past few years during the recession. In fact the photo on this film’s poster (above left) at first looked to me like a graph of the Times' company stock in decline. But when I looked more closely I found it is actually the red stairwell of the Times’ spanking new building, which ironically opened just before the paper began its precipitous financial decline bleeding tons of red (sorry) ink. In the past couple of years the price of the Sunday New York Times was actually more expensive than one of the company’s shares.....Throughout the film people both within and outside the industry speak almost in disbelief at the prospect of the storied newspaper possibly folding, only later to be rescued – with conditions - by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.....The film is fascinating for anybody who’s a newspaper junkie. Simply having an inside look at the mother of all newspapers is a rush. But it’s especially poignant given the Times’ recent distress and becomes a wider examination of the forces that are roiling the newspaper business in the online era, where Twitter updates news constantly and sites like Craigslist have devoured former newspaper classified ads.....The Times has gained some solid footing of late, thanks to Slim, as well as its astute embrace of a digital platform (one person praises the Times’ extraordinary-looking website) and the start this year of charging for online views. The Times has been put through a wringer and the film captures a lot of that, including the tearful farewells of laid off staff. And there are interviews with competing digital media who are trying to eat the Times’ breakfast, such as Gawker or The Huffington Post. The Times may be financially down but its news acumen sharp as ever, continuing to break myriad stories and be the bulletin board to which other media look for their own leads.....Much of Page One is filmed around a small group of writers and editors including media reporter David Carr, a former cocaine addict who worked himself up the newspaper ranks to a plum Times job and who ironically is chronicling the changes convulsing his world. “The messages are the media,” he says as a rejoinder to Marshall McLuhan’s famous statement.

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