Documentary filmmaker Andrew Rossi gained privileged access to the New York Times’ Media Desk for 14 months between 2009 and 2010. Not everyone within the Times’ staff agreed to participate in the movie, so Rossi focused on a few journalists to illustrate the ongoing crisis in journalism with the advent of the new technologies.
Those waiting for a detailed description on how the newspaper is done and how the journalists do their job will be slightly disappointed; the documentary shows some important moments in the history of the New York Times (Wikileaks, financial problems resulting in bailouts) and depicts some investigative journalism (by David Carr), but it is in the overall more focused on describing a particular moment in journalism.
The journalist’s activity is mixed with interviews to outside experts, such as Jeff Jarvis, author of ‘What Would Google Do?’, professor Clay Shirky or former Times’ journalist Gay Talese. Also, the filmmaker briefly addresses some controversial moments in the newspaper’s recent history, such as Judith Miller’s coverage of Iraq’s alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction or journalist Jayson Blair case of plagiarism.
In the end, however, it is journalist David Carr who gets most of the attention. His witty, confrontational style becomes an example of what independent journalism should be. Grown up with traditional, printed press, he tries to catch up with the new technologies while keeping the essence of ‘true’ journalism intact.
Despite the fact that the documentary could have been much more exciting and juicy, it stands as a privileged view into some of the gifted people that work at the Times. Is it a missed opportunity? Maybe, but the subject and the people are of the greatest interest.
Photos courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.