Friday, July 8, 2011

Page One: A Documentary on the Demise of The New York Times


It’s strange that a viewer should ever be emotionally moved by the collapse of a major corporation, but indeed I was.  What’s more, I was even moved beyond emotion, to action.  I left the movie theatre wanting to run home immediately to purchase a subscription to The New York Times online and do my part in saving the Pulitzer-Prize-winning behemoth.   To be honest, it wasn’t the personal stories that moved me as much as the institutional ones.  The New York Times, at least in the U.S., is truly the bedrock of the Fourth Estate.  In fact 99% of stories linked to in blogs come from newspapers and broadcast networks, 80% of those coming from four major media outlets:  The BBC, CNN, The Washington Post,  and of course, The New York Times. 

Though a newspaper that’s been around since 1851 may seem stodgy, rigidly immobile and out of pace with contemporary culture and a digital lifestyle, Page One corrected that misconception, demonstrating a willing adaptability, flexibility, and even a forward-thinking innovative spirit within The Times establishment.  The documentary revealed ways the newspaper is working to capture both readers and advertisers with its online content, and even forming alliances with other online sources, social media networks, bloggers and websites (the most notorious being, of course, WikiLeaks).

In fact, no one captures this “new face” of The New York Times better than David Carr, journalist and former drug addict/dealer.  As a spokesperson for the newspaper (and just like The Times) Carr is everything you wouldn’t expect him to be, especially in the buttoned-up and formal world of old-school journalism, but the documentary reveals this traditional, old guard ideal of the Fourth Estate is changing.  Even behemoths must adapt or risk extinction, and there is no better poster child for the "new" New York Times than David Carr.  (In fact, it’s no doubt his memoir, The Night of the Gun, will see an upsurge in sales as a result of Carr’s quirky cameo in Page One.  Read an awesome excerpt here:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93513913.)  In his baseball cap, hiking boots and best bum-like attire, Carr’s scrappy demeanor really steals the show.  Despite his raspy voice, slouched posture and colorful language, Carr serves as a symbol of triumph and hope, a success story with a happy ending that the viewer inevitably hopes will be true for The New York Times as well.  

If you haven’t seen this documentary yet, I highly recommend it.  If you have and, like me, were moved to make a difference, check out the Take Part website, where you can learn “5 Things You Can Do Now” to support quality journalism:   http://www.takepart.com/pageone.

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