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SIFF: Page One: Inside the New York Times - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
SIFF: Page One: Inside the New York Times
Directing: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

The title Page One: Inside the New York Times is actually a little misleading. In their defense, A Limited View Inside the New York Times isn't quite as punchy. But that's essentially what it is.

There are indeed several scenes filmed inside editorial meetings at The New York Times deciding on front page stories in 2010. These meetings are filled with at least a dozen people, though, and maybe two of these individuals get much attention in the film. One is Executive Editor Bill Keller, a clearly logical choice; but his screen time is particularly limited compared to that of Bruce Headlam, editor of the Media Desk. He is one of many people pitching for a story to be on the front page in these meetings, and none of the others get any air time.

Granted, much of the focus of Page One is on the changing nature of media, how many daily newspapers across the country have been casualties of these changes, and the extent to which the New York Times is or is not impervious. But perhaps director and co-writer Andrew Rossi should make up his mind regarding what this movie is exactly about, because the broader focus seems to be far more on the New York Times's presumed resilience in a volatile market than it is on the process of getting a story on its front page.

That said, this documentary still plays very well, both entertaining and informative, to both people still interested in reading hard copy newspapers (which I am not) and people convinced that newspapers need to adapt to a changing media environment (which I am). Rossi at times seems to be making the case that the Times could be used as a model -- most of the time -- for what print media should be doing to keep themselves viable, because they are things the newspapers that went bankrupt clearly didn't do.

Bruce Headlam is apparent boss to David Carr, who emerges as the star of this movie. Indeed, he could have made a great documentary on his own, much as Bill Cunningham did in the somewhat superior Bill Cunningham New York. Indeed, such a documentary could very easily have presented the same arguments about changing media, and just as effectively, as this one does.

Carr is pretty old-school when it comes to journalistic values, but he comes to realize the importance of a happy medium. He is shown as an integral part of some of the biggest stories reported on by the Times in 2010, including the bankruptcy of the Tribune Company and Wikileaks. Wikileaks in particular is presented as a major way the Times adapted to the changing media landscape, first reporting on leaked online videos after the fact and later partnering with Wikileaks to reveal information concurrently.

Carr, as a former junkie with a brash, no-nonsense attitude, certainly makes for a good subject, which is certainly why so much focus is placed on him. If Page One could stand some editing for clarity, it's certainly edited for maximum entertainment, in a genre and about a topic not known for being entertaining.

But there's also twenty-five-year-old media reporter Brian Stelter, sort of the anti-David Carr in that he's anything but old-school, and was brought on board in part because of his social media prowess. But he and Carr complement each other, and Stelter (@BrianStelter) actually managed to get Carr on twitter (@carr2n) and to enjoy it.

So, as movie characters go, it's kind of like Carr is the star and Headlam and Stelter are the supporting characters. Most of the other people just get bit parts. But Carr and Stelter in particular do make a good representation of the struggle between old and new, as well as how to make those things work well together. This makes Page One: Inside the New York Times thoroughly engaging, if at times disappointingly lacking in inside detail.

Reporter David Carr discussed the story of the moment with his boss, Bruce Headlam, in 'Page One: Inside the New York Times'.

Overall: B+
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