| Filmmaker Andrew Rossi was given unprecedented access to the New York Times newsroom for an entire year. The result is this fascinating documentary that takes a fragmented, fly-on-the-wall approach to various stories being written with designs on the front page.
The movie opens with a scene of the fully automated printing press. The old school business model of trees being cut for paper and the daily edition being delivered to homes, businesses and newsstands seems to be in jeopardy with the popularity of the Internet.
In 2008, the Times created a Media Desk to report on changes in information technology for news gathering. The collapse in advertising revenue and a nosedive in circulation coupled with competition for attention in the form of online websites and blogs have forced print journalism to come up with a new ways to make a profit from investigative reporting.
A funereal mood of insecurity pervades the newspaper business. At the end of 2009, the Times was forced to eliminate nearly 10 percent of the newsroom jobs through voluntary buyouts and layoffs. The Times now charges subscribers via a pay wall for full access to its online website.
The real star of this interesting and engrossing film is David Carr, a raspy-voiced, 53-year-old media columnist. He is considered a prophetic oracle full of sage advice from the school of hard knocks. Carr, a former drug-snorting crack addict, hit rock bottom at age 32, when he landed in jail for cocaine possession. He raised two children as a single parent on welfare. Carr comes across as a brainy, dynamic individual and is described by his editor as a "fair-minded and diligent reporter."
The future vitality and solvency of venerable institutions like the Times appears to rest on finding ways to appeal to young people. Times media reporter, Brian Stelter, created a personal blog at age 21 and gained instant notoriety. He went to the print media side and embodies everything about new media formats. He is constantly monitoring short bursts of communication from Twitter and has a handle on websites designed to get the most hits. The movie mentions the iPad tablet, which can be viewed as either a bridge to the future or the gallows for traditional print journalism.
The movie effectively utilizes archival footage. Famous Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein appears on camera for an interview. Rossi, a graduate of Yale U. and Harvard Law School, did yeoman's work on this production serving as executive producer, director, cinematographer, co-screenwriter and co-editor. This riveting documentary is paced beautifully condensing a year's worth of filming into a tight and somewhat cohesive running time of 89 minutes. Its world premiere took place in January at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
This is mandatory viewing for anyone seeking to be a reporter or with career aspirations in journalism. Now playing exclusively at the Glenwood Arts.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"