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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Page One: Inside the New York Times

A documentary that ducks under the media desk and investigates how lay-offs, bankruptcies and digital media have dethroned America's imperial Gray Lady.
By Hilary Simmons
September 11, 2011
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By Hilary Simmons
September 11, 2011
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Page One: Inside the New York Times is a fly-on-the-wall look at a year's stories and setbacks at the paper once described as "necessary proof of the world's existence". The documentary, directed by Andrew Rossi, ducks under the media desk and investigates how lay-offs, bankruptcies and digital media have dethroned America's imperial Gray Lady.

It opens with a bunch of footage about newspaper closures across America, setting up the premise that print journalism's golden age is well and truly over. But make no mistake, Rossi's film is not an epitaph. Rather, it features indignant Times partisans talking entertainingly, broadly and knowledgeably about the future of the printed word in today's wired world. They passionately defend the nobility of newsprint and humanise a medium that may or may not be past its prime.

Curiously, the New York Times wrote a terrible review of Page One, decreeing that it was basically a mess. It's tempting to be cynical and point out that all publicity is good publicity and a headline about the New York Times slamming an account of its own newsroom is a punchy attention-grabber. But this is beside the point.

The point is that Page One is not well-structured, but given it's an account of a news industry in crisis, this is hardly surprising. There's something fitting about the fact that Rossi's camera flits from topic to topic, columnist to columnist, source to source, effectively reflecting a world where our stories so often come in random but convenient 140-character bytes.

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