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SXSW Review/Scene Report: ‘Page One’

By Joe Gross | Monday, March 14, 2011, 02:34 PM

Austin360 Movie Blog  

One of the signature movies at this year’s SXSW (and not just because part of it was filmed here last year), “Page One: Inside The New York Times” is a brilliantly paced doc about the times in which the Times finds itself. Where are we now? Well, the bottom continues to fall out of newspaper ad revenue, a public continues to believe it can be informed without actually paying for the news, and bloggers and aggregators continue to eat into page views, all of which “Page One” addresses. Directed by Andrew Rossi, the movie crisply folds in Times history both positive and negative (The Pentagon Papers, Jayson Blair’s fabrications, Judith Miller’s faulty reporting on the weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to war in Iraq) while following the Media Desk at the Times, which covers such issues. Rossi focused on three people, two writers and an editor on the desk (which has 11 reporters). Brain Stelter started as a blogger before jumping to the Times, where he has been a key reporter covering Wikileaks. (As executive editor Bill Keller says, “Daniel Ellsberg needed us. WikiLeaks doesn’t.”) Stelter seems the embodiment of the confluence between new media and old. He tweets all the time and covers his beat with Internet-ish energy, but the Times’ cultural gravitas sure comes in handy. His editor is Bruce Headlam, and if there’s one thing this movie does perfectly (which warmed my bosses heart), it is showed exactly what an editor does, which almost nobody outside of a newsroom understands. Headlam is show pitching stories to his bosses for inclusion on the front page, he shapes narratives with reporters, he advises on direction and, in one fascinating scene, (wisely) decides to do absolutely nothing about a very strange moment when NBC seems to declare the end of the Iraq war. (This was news to the Pentagon).

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