When virtual and physical media come to a head, it’s obvious that intangible technology victoriously floats above the rubble of newspapers and magazines.
San Francisco’s historic Bridge Theatre has provided quality entertainment since 1939, and this month they featured Andrew Rossi’s riveting documentary, Page One: Inside the New York Times. It’s certainly not in the nicest area in Laurel Heights, but the trip was worth it. The theater is structured like a play theater with an old-fashioned red curtain. The staff was amiable and there was even a personal address at the beginning (which was basically a plug for donations, obviously).
Bridge didn’t just show movie trailers; they had commercials, as well. And where there are commercials, of course there are iPad commercials. Or the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Page One did not stall in throwing the hard facts in your face right from the start. In a culture where everything we do is “ripped open” and privacy isn’t valued, all connected citizens have extensive, free access to news. The Times and other newspapers can’t compete with Internet sites such as Twitter and WikiLeaks; it simply isn’t a fair fight. Therefore, the Times has been negotiating with WikiLeaks in hinder its own decline. The film also regretfully admits that although the value of Twitter and other social networking sites is hard to explain to a non-user, a user realizes its usefulness and practicality after a couple days.
But despite the fact that most people get their news from online sources, they’re unaware that many of those are watered-down news stories that are part of “The NY Times Effect,” meaning that many websites get their initial information from the Times and then re-publish it in order for the general public to find it easier.
As these issues with journalism continue to emerge, time-old arguments resume, as well. Although journalism can often be seen as a tool to obtain justice, objectivity is nearly impossible in most cases. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the constant “insecurity that pervades the newspaper business.” The staff of the Times is quite familiar with this dreadful feeling, since 100 employees were sent home with packed boxes.
On top of all this doom, prestige of The New York Times can actually work against itself sometimes. Judy Miller‘s mishap with the “proof” she had on the Iraq War only proved that she had caused the Times to start treading on dangerous waters. Her lack of accurate information and sources discredited not only the Times but also the entire newspaper industry. The public’s faith in journalism dwindled even further.
The depressing film had a couple moments of hope and inspiration. David Carr, a Times columnist, assures the audience that as long as the staff is competent, adapting won’t be completely unfeasible. His dry humor reminded me of Dr. House‘s wit, and his smirks and jabs at others’ expense was highly amusing and comedic relief, at least.
The film ended on an inconclusive note. Of course, you can’t expect the filmmakers to predict whether journalism will completely die or not. So yes, newspapers are dying. But news is not. What that means for the future is unclear, but at least Page One pays tribute to the hard work that people have put into the journalism industry for decades.
Check the documentary’s official site to see other screening locations.