Thursday, February 2, 2012

Page One: Inside the New York Times

The pillars of print media have shown a remarkable inability to adapt to the changing conditions imparted by digital media in recent years. This and the subsequent decline of traditional media represent the compelling narrative at the heart of Andrew Rossi’s documentary. The film explores the shifting media market through the prism of several journalists at the New York Times. Among the reporters on the proverbial front lines of the precipice is David Carr, a quick-witted former addict who regularly “vaporizes” those who decry the Times and traditional media in general. Carr is a fascinating screen subject and a unique voice in the media wars. The film, however, lacks its own voice. In its rapid surveying of the numerous factors in the changing media landscape, Page One fails to make coherent case about any specific or broader point. Rossi goes to great lengths to portray the Times as a storied institution with a rich history and reputation for journalistic excellence (which it is, albeit less so in recent years), though his reasons for doing this are unclear within the context of the film’s greater purpose. While I prize ambiguity in most films, I expect informed accounts on the current state of journalism to be clear and articulate, neither of which can be said about Page One. At one point during the film, Carr overturns the familiar Marshall McLuhan phrase and suggests that with media services like Twitter, the message is in fact the medium. The problem with Page One is that it adopts the same logic. It eschews a cogent journalistic argument in favor of a barrage of messages as ephemeral as a tweet. (Andrew Rossi, 2011) **

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