AS THE DEFINING development of our era, the internet has made media watching a sport tantamount to the Romans pitting Christians against lions, with the old ways getting their asses handed to them by Facebook, Twitter, etc. Through the din, strong arguments are being made about the importance of long-form writing and on-the-ground reporting—aggregators need things to aggregate, after all—and it's this argument that Page One: Inside the New York Times largely concerns itself with. In choosing 2010 as the year in which director Andrew Rossi was allowed backstage at the nation's most widely respected news source, he couldn't help but get a bird's eye view of the ongoing struggle for the evolution of the news, including the introduction of the Times' paywall, and capturing media desk rock star David Carr's work in real time.
For anyone who works in media, Page is mesmerizingly relevant, and to daily readers worshipful of the Gray Lady, it's thrilling to peek inside the world behind the bylines. We see Brian Stelter, known as the first reporter to have been hired away from his blog by a traditional news outlet, furiously tweeting and, over the course of the film, losing 90 pounds (which he also documented on Twitter). We also see young, handsome Tim Arango graduate from the media beat to take the plunge and transfer to a correspondent desk in Baghdad, the camera tagging along as his colleagues toast his departure at a farewell party.
The most striking presence in Page, by far, is Carr, a former crack addict who managed to turn his life around and become one of the most dogged defenders of the work being done at the Times. Watching him grill people is like watching a skilled swordsman, and an introduction to this character is worth the price of admission alone. (Favorite quote, said to Vice cofounder Shane Smith regarding The Vice Guide to Liberia: "Before you ever went there, we've had reporters there reporting on genocide after genocide. Just because you put on a fucking safari helmet and looked at some poop doesn't give you the right to insult what we do.")
Page isn't perfect—it largely keeps itself to the media reporters, excluding all of the paper's arts and culture reporters and critics, and at times it begins to feel like an infomercial for opting into the Times' paywall. But as the information landscape continues to shift, it's a riveting capsule of the moment.