I recently saw the film Page One: Inside the New York Times, and it felt appropriate for me to comment on it because I’m taking classes at Minnesota State University, Mankato to earn a degree in journalism. It got me thinking about the battle between old media and new media, the newspapers vs. online publications. I’m not sure whether I should be embarrassed to admit that I’ve never bought or read an edition of the New York Times, although I’ve certainly read articles that originated there, often linked through sites like the Huffington Post. I do respect their contribution to the history of journalism, but I’d be lying if I said I’d suffer if their place in modern media was lost. Like most aging entities in the birth of the information age, adaptation is necessary for survival. That it took the Times so long to realize that their business model (which I cringe to refer to it as because of the corporate overtones) was dying.
The documentary is wonkish in how it asks us to sympathize with characters that seem somewhat disillusioned by the direction of modern journalism. Hearing David Carr’s story of his internal struggle to embrace Twitter is humorous and sort of pathetic all at once. There is a sausage-making feel to the film, which doesn’t necessarily beg sympathy for the characters and their paper, but it doesn’t endear them to us either. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what the documentary was trying to say. I personally find the film versions of real journalistic endeavors, from the good (All the President’s Men) to the bad (Shattered Glass), to be more inspirational in their execution of showing the value of journalistic integrity. Unless your a Times subscriber or find yourself devoted to the paper in some way, Page One is a bit anemic. To assume that anyone who respects solid journalism feels automatically loyal to the Times is pretentious, and if the point of this film was to garner sympathy for the suffering institution it fell well short.
All this being said, I do hope the Times finds a way to navigate the current landscape of reporting, and I consider them to be a relevant voice in journalism as long as they continue to seek out stories that matter to the fabric of humanity. Being unimpressed by this documentary doesn’t mean I can’t wish the best for a paper and those that work hard to maintain its standard of quality. In the end, the New York Times is just a title. It’s the reporters that work there now and over the years that make the paper great, and they will surely find another outlet for their ability if the Times ever does meet its end. For a paper that has prided itself on helping to shape the American conversation, the New York Times should’ve been able to forecast the revolution of online media and blogs. For their sake and the sake of the people who really do hold the paper dear, I hope they haven’t waited too long to adapt.