Page One: Inside the New York Times
Now Showing at: The Mariemont Theater
Review by: Larry Thomas
A staple of good movie storytelling has always been films set in and around the world of newspapers and reporters. Any film buff’s list of favorite films isn’t complete without a Citizen Kane, or Ace in the Hole, or All the President's Men. The workings of the press have always made for fascinating screen fare.
We are now in a climate in which not only newspapers are faced with almost daily bad news, but also the printed word as a whole seems to be falling out of fashion. Newspapers are folding faster than the shirt department in a laundry. Bricks and mortar bookstores, which have been under assault for years from online retailers, now find that electronic publications are knocking at their front door, threatening their very existence.
But all is not lost for citizens who rely on the printed world for their daily information and entertainment. A new documentary, Page One: Inside The New York Times is a reminder of the importance of reporting and the First Amendment.
For an entire year, filmmaker Andrew Rossi was granted full access to the New York Times Media Desk, a fairly new department devoted to covering the various forms of media, and the lightning-fast changes brought on by technology. Rossi and his camera covered editorial meetings, individual reporters, the big stories and more. If this film were still in production, Rossi would likely be knee-deep in the Rupert Murdoch scandal.
Unlike fiction films, the documentary does expose the “warts and all” facets of its subjects. Page One: Inside The New York Times brings you the equivalent of the real Woodward and Bernstein, not Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. And some of those working at the New York Times are not necessarily persons you might want to bring home for dinner. But the personalities of these journalists are not at issue here. What is important is that the film shows that old-style reporting and journalism not only can exist in today’s technological climate, but it absolutely must exist.
A couple of the big stories covered by the New York Times Media Desk were the WikiLeaks debacle, and the bankruptcy and collapse of the Tribune Media empire. Whatever your opinion on these events, it’s important to remember that, no matter what, stories like these need to be public knowledge, not swept under the carpet of secrecy. There’s even a local connection, as there is footage covering former Cincinnati broadcaster Randy Michaels and his role in bringing down Sam Zell’s Tribune group.
The R-rated Page One: Inside The New York Times is now showing, just barely, at the Mariemont Theatre. After its first week, the film has now been relegated to showing once per day at 9:30 pm, a sure sign that ticket buyers are not supporting it. Chances are excellent that it will be gone after Thursday. If you prefer to see films in theatres, these next few days will probably be your last chance to do so. It may not be the best documentary ever made, but it is worth seeing, and, as was its intention, does cover an important story.