Page One: Inside The New York Times

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A noose for the news?

Unsurprisingly, the headquarters of our nation’s third most read newspaper, the New York Times, is a tense place. Yet the tensions represented in the recent documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times have little to do with deadlines, caffeine, and ungodly work hours.

The film instead documents the complex ideological and economic grappling at play within traditional (print, mainstream) media organizations as they figure out how to deal with “new media” (think NewserGawker, Twitter etc.). The NYT isn’t at peace with the transition – no newspaper or print publication is. From this uncertainty the documentary asks its viewers, Who will mediate our news?

Page One establishes two separate yet related ideological tensions: that between David Carr (a wry, sagelike ever-witty proponent of traditional journalism) and Brian Stelter (a blogger-turned journalist technophile who “constantly berates [his] coworkers to join Twitter), and that between traditional and emergent media. While the former has a playful tone – Carr threatens to throw Stetler’s overworked iPhone over the fence at an office BBQ – the latter tension is met with all of the intellectual gusto that Carr and the rest of the NYT can muster.

News is inescapably narrative, and the story either told well or poorly, thoroughly or narrowly, truthfully or deceitfully. What kinds of stories are we listening to, and how are we judging them? Who will tell the stories of our day well if we don’t support those whose career it is to do so? May the conversation continue.