Monday, 26 September 2011

Inside the New York (Troubled) Times

N.B. This blog post is about the documentary Page One: Inside The New York Times starring David Carr, Bruce Headlam, Brian Stelter, Bill Keller, and Tim Harango.

This past Friday afternoon, all of the first-year CreComm students walked from Red River College to Cinematheque to watch Page One, a movie about the transformation of the news industry from paper to pixels, and the direction that this industry is headed.

The movie was incredibly entertaining yet informative at the same time.  David Carr was no doubt the underdog in the movie, the character who had risen against all odds and came out on top.  Once a drug addict, he is currently a celebrated columnist for the New York Times as well as a single parent of two daughters.  He has come a long way, and we as viewers cheer for him.

In my opinion, I felt that the main message of the movie is that newspapers are becoming obsolete because there are now alternative means of getting the news.  Because a number of people are getting their news from Twitter feeds and online newspaper sites, newspaper companies are not a huge part of many people's lives and therefore are becoming bankrupt.  No money means no newspaper.

I love magazines.  I find there is almost nothing more relaxing than sitting on the couch, flipping through an issue of Chatelaine or Flare.  When I came to the CreComm Open House event last year, I asked one of the instructors about print media to which he responded, "Print media is becoming obsolete."  His reply broke my heart.  Surely he cannot mean that some day in the future paper will be nothing but a memory.  How can one compare the feeling of the pages between your fingers to the feeling of sliding your index finger across a screen?

Watching the New York Times journalists worry about the security of their jobs and the status of the newspaper as a whole was not reassuring to me as a Communications student.  The film showed some administration staff pack up and leave the office.  Several clips of the demise of some news industries, such as the Tribune, were shown.  The future looked bleak to me at that point.

However, there was a bit of a turning point near the end.  While the movie created an outlook that was grim in the beginning, the movie finished with a positive note.  "Journalism is alive and well and feisty, especially at the New York Times," said Bill Keller from the stairs of the New York Times' huge lobby.  This statement wielded uproarious applause and cheers from the staff.  They will be okay.  They will not go down without a fight.  They have been around for 160 years, and with their go-getting attitudes and unrelenting hard work, they may be around for 160 more.

Bill Keller's words gave me hope.  Maybe once I'm out in the field, journalism will not be the way it was back in the day.  Perhaps we will receive most of our news through a digital device and newspapers will be a thing of the past.  I wince at the very notion.

However, as long as the gathering, presenting, and telling of the news is "old school" - for lack of a better term - I think I would be okay with the transition.  True journalism, in my eyes, is about telling the truth, sharing a story, and informing the people.  Of course we should try our best to keep the newspaper alive, but we should never forget that fairness and balance prevail, whether on a piece of paper or on our computer screen.


  1. Stand-up comedy is about "telling the truth" too - and may be why Colbert and Stewart get more viewers than Brian Williams.

  2. Don't worry; you will work in a group creating a magazine next semester.
    On paper? Probably.
    Online, too? Probably.