Monday, September 26, 2011

Front Page News

The documentary Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times is a must-see movie. You can take my word for it, I saw it twice in less than 24 hours and I’d go see it again.
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There’s a lot going on in the movie and tons to digest once the lights come up. It poses big questions about where journalism is going and how transformations of the media industry are going to affect it.

The more I think about this doc directed by Andrew Rossi, the more questions I have. But I think that’s partly the point, to get people talking. The newspaper is something that many take for granted and asking what would happen if it disappeared is a topic worth discussing.

And that’s just what happened after opening night of the movie at Cinematheque on Sept. 22. The Winnipeg Free Press News CafĂ© hosted a panel discussion about journalism in the age of new media. It was an interesting night and reinforced that there are no hard and fast answers when it comes to this topic.

One man in the audience said that he was concerned that his kids don’t trust the newspaper as much as he did when he was young.

I actually thought that was a good thing. Critical thinking is vital. I know what he meant, though. You’d like to think there’s at least one place to go for news that’s “true” and “right.” But that just isn’t a reality.

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Obviously one hopes all reporting is truthful, fair and balanced. But not all of it is.

Get your news from a few sources and it doesn’t take long to realize that each paper or network is going to tell the same story a little differently. And that can be a great thing.

But absolute blind trust is dangerous. Whether it’s an intentional skewing of the facts or human error (we’re all fallible after all) you need to think about what you’re reading, make your own judgments and consider the source.

But back to the film.

I’m fairly certain anyone who’s seen Page One will agree that David Carr, the film’s “star”, is a fascinating guy to watch and listen to. I’m sure that’s in part due to his having lived a textured life, as he said.

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One of my favourite moments from the film is when he’s straight talking with the executives of Vice (a magazine and media conglomerate founded in Montreal, eh). You know which scene I’m talking about. Or the one where Carr’s driving to a conference in Minnesota: “We must be OK, we're wearing badges.”

(If you don't know which scenes I'm referring to you (a) haven't seen the film or (b) didn't watch it carefully enough. My advice in both cases is to go see it).

I was inspired by Carr’s honesty, candidness, humour and love for the paper. And oh yeah, the man can write. Everybody was so on the ball, but I guess that’s just a given for anyone working at the New York Times.

I was also very interested in the media reporter and multi-tasker extraordinaire Brian Stelter. I’m certainly not jealous of the fact he’s insanely bright, works for the New York Times and is two years younger than I am. Doesn’t faze me in the least.

The Media Desk editor Bruce Headlam (who’s from Ontario, by the way) was also a favorite of mine to watch. In general, I’m thoroughly captivated by the whole process of putting together a daily paper.

Both times I saw the film I don’t think I blinked for the first half of it. I sat up straight, eyes wide-open, heart racing. I feel like I’ve been bitten by the journalism bug and there’s no going back. Whether or not this means I become a journalist, I don’t know.

After all, just last week I decided to I wanted to be a writer, but I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

The second time I saw Page One, I noticed the lack of women in the film. I’m saying this partly because I’m a woman but mostly because it would have been interesting to see a different dynamic on screen. This isn’t, by the way, a comment about there being a lack of women working for the paper.

In fact, I recently learned that Jill Abramson has since taken the helm of the paper, replacing former editor Bill Keller. She’s the first female executive editor of the New York Times. According to Forbes, she places 12th on the list of the world’s 100 most powerful woman (yes, she beat out Oprah Winfrey by two spots). Abramson came in one spot below Lady Gaga and one above Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services in the US.

Maybe they’ll make a sequel, call it Page Two and focus on Abramson. I’d go see that.

One thing’s for sure, we haven’t see the last of Page One. It sounds like a Hollywood remake is in the works with names being tossed around like Jeff Bridges as executive editor Bill Keller, Robert Downey Jr. as David Carr and Tilda Swinton as Julian Assange.
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I found the editing of the movie to be a bit off at times (as some of my classmates said, it felt like the movie was going to end a bunch of times but it kept on going—much to our delight) but maybe that’s more of a reflection of the subject matter rather than the film itself.

In terms of papers going out of business, I’m new to this, but there seems to something off with the whole idea of “news for profit”.

I agree with paying for content and think it’s inevitable. As Stelter said in the film, nothing in life is free. If a paywall helps to keep journalists doing what they’re doing, then I’m more than happy to support that.
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I also think aggregators should be footing some of the bill but I’m still thinking these details through (the scene with Michael Wolff from Newser and Carr holding up the paper full of holes is burned into my brain). Mainstream media and aggregators are linked and it seems one is getting more of the financial glory.

Imagine if newspapers didn’t have to rely on advertising. How would that change things? What affect do you think that would have on content?

Part of being bitten by the journalism bug is being genuinely excited by what is going on around me and wishing that I had time to read all about it. My desire for a 28-hour day shouldn’t be taken as a complaint that I have too much to do. On the contrary, I want to do it all and more.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post! Hope the rest of your internship went well tonight! xo