Besides being our talented online editor Maurice Timothy Reidy is also an experienced professional journalist, a graduate of Columbia University's School of Journalism (affectionately called the "J School") who worked for a time at the Hartford Courant in Connecticut (as well as for that other Catholic magazine, Commonweal). So he was the perfect person to ask to review the new documentary about the inner workings of the New York Times, "Page One." Here's the lede, plus a few more grafs, as they say in J School:
First, a confession: I read the New York Times in print. As online editor at America, I feel slightly guilty about my preference for the paper edition of the Old Gray Lady. Surely I should begin my day by checking the Times on my smart phone, or better yet, on my new iPad. The Times does offer an excellent iPad app, but it has yet to replace my print subscription. At the end of the day I still find myself flipping through newsprint, just in case I missed something in this week’s Home section.
Old die habits die hard, but when it comes to the newspaper industry, habits are dying fast and furious. Once the locus of news and advertising for pretty much every city in the country, the newspaper has been savaged by the rise of the Web. A few holdouts may read the print product, and may even pay for it, but our species faces a Darwinian fate. I will shell out $40 each month for a Times’ subscription for as long as my budget will allow; my younger brother never will.
All of this is a familiar story, and hardly seems worth repeating, especially for a journalist such as myself in the early stages of my career. Why revisit the grim, enervating facts? Yet a therapy session seems in order after watching “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” a new documentary less about the reach and influence of the Times than the state of media in the age of Google and Facebook. Directed by Andrew Rossi, “Page One” employs the slick editing style of documentaries like “Inside Job” to take the measure of the country’s most prominent newspaper. For non-journalists, the film may seem too “inside baseball,” an exercise in promotion disguised as a defense of a Great Public Good. But those involved should be forgiven; it’s been a rough decade.
The star of “Page One” is not, as one would expect, the Times’ vaunted team of investigative reporters, or its foreign correspondents scattered across the globe. Instead, we are introduced to the motley crew of correspondents that make up the Times’ media desk, in particular David Carr and the indefatigable Brian Stelter. Reporter Tim Arango also makes an appearance, although he is not long for the media beat. With his war reporter looks and fondness for cigarettes, he is better suited to the foreign desk, and before long he is taking over the Times bureau in Baghdad.