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[Blog] “Page One” documentary like Dying Newspapers 101

David Carr, center, and James Rainey, right, discuss “Page One.”  / Daina Beth Solomon

There’s not much to say about “Page One” that hasn’t already been said.  I saw the feature-documentary at the L.A. Film Festival, and found myself agreeing with the reviews by Michael Kinsley for the NY Times and Kenneth Turan for the LA Times.  Both found the work’s lack of a clear narrative – it jumps from topic to topic – a distraction.  To me, it seemed like the film spreads itself too thin. It dives into juicy topics but doesn’t stick with any long enough to generate insightful, thoughtful commentary.

General audiences might appreciate this quick look into Dying Newspapers 101. But for journalists, it’s old news, so to speak, that the newspaper business model no longer works, and that papers face competition from blogs and sites like The Huffington Post and Newser. The documentary doesn’t offer any new perspectives or innovative insights.

Of course, it’s fun to watch New York Times reporters race around the newsroom. One looks like an octopus as he types on three computers at once. And the main character, David Carr, merits the spotlight. At first, I worried that the filmmakers would use this media writer with the wisecracks, throaty voice and “textured” past (drug addiction) as a gimmick.  But Carr seems to offer the most concise and thought-provoking comments out of all the talking-heads.

I happened to attend the screening surrounded by an audience of journalists, including many from the L.A. Times. We all seemed to giggle and gawk at the same moments.

After the credits rolled, David Carr and James Rainey, L.A. Times media writer, stationed themselves in front of the audience to discuss the film.  Rainey pointed out the parts he liked and probed Carr with new questions.  Both seemed to enjoy the chance to continue the conversations that had only begun to spark up on screen.

The New York Times review concluded by recommending that viewers see “His Girl Friday,” a film from the 1930s about newspaper-men and -women caught in a battle of the sexes.  I recommend watching “End Times,” a clip made by the Daily Show a few years back.  Like “Page One,” it takes viewers inside the New York Times and interviews top editors.  It seems to consider all the same questions, too — but in only five minutes.  And is much funnier.

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