Is "Page One" the new Page Six?
With its mix of insider innuendo and rocking revelations, there is a link — albeit tenuous — between "Page One," an intriguing investigative independent-movie examination of what makes The New York Timestick, and the gossip page that is the rival New York Post's celebrity sales pitch.
But "Page One: Inside The New York Times," now playing in the area, is a documentary that dares to expose the inner workings of the coveted Old Grey Lady, not the over-exposed roots of the blondish Lady Gaga and other show biz-types.
Indeed, David Carr is no David Duchovny.
But Carr is a movie star; the Times media columnist comes across as medium cool in this new film, which examines how the Internet has interfered with the prestigious publication's daily news.
The Times, it is a-changin.'
And it's all captured on screen by Andrew Rossi (director/producer) and Kate Novack (producer/writer), as they spent months behind the scenes within the revered publication in a paper chase that reveals much.
But is it all old news, how social media has caused some social insecurity among the print media, now pressed to prove their worthiness in a world of cyber synergy?
Are failure and the future necessarily on the same page?
No, exclaims Novack, "definitely not. The movie starts out in a dark, claustrophobic place, but but by the end, you see there is reason to be hopeful."
Yet it won't make old-style journalists feel all atwitter — even as they're dragged into the 21st century of Twitter. It is all depicted as a somewhat non-harmonic media convergence albeit one needed for survival: "In such difficult economic times, there is peril but there is also opportunity," avers Novack.
What's the Dish?
How did Rossi and Novack get the opportunity to invade the Times' inner sanctum, interlopers sanctioned despite their somewhat less-than-blockbuster credentials to do so? Getting in must have been as difficult as scoring a top table at Le Cirque, one of New York's most prestigious and popular restaurants.
Novack knows the reference; she and Rossi collaborated on "Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven," their only other major joint movie credit.
"In a way, they're both fortresses," Novack says of the paper and the restaurant. "But once you get in, you see they're made of human" frailties and strengths.
Did they have a pre-set menu for the Times? "We had no agenda, but wound up in the middle of an historic moment in the media."
In media res: The filmmakers found themselves caught up in a drama when WikiLeaks last year released video of a tragic "friendly fire" attack by American forces on Reuters newsmen, scooping the Times on what years earlier would have been their story.
How the newspaper responded in the enforced role as on-deck reporters rather than starting lineup power hitters proved illuminating.
But Times marches on: "Have they adapted well? Yes," claims the filmmaker, despite a recent history of layoffs and economic turmoil.
Indeed there seems to be some glee among detractors who covet the possibility, no matter how implausible, of a second-string status of the publication, even shown cheering in the documentary for its demise — which may or may not include some members of the Jewish community who have attacked the paper for its perceived anti-Israel bias over the years.
Certainly the Times has always been known for its qualitative literary turns at obituary writing. But is it adept at handling its own?
"We have screened the film for all kinds of audiences, including young people — who don't necessarily read newspapers — and they were all moved by the film," depicting beaten-down staff as Don Quixotes on what may be the most quixotic of impossible dreams –avoiding the inevitable.
"But as David Carr says in the film, you need not be a monolith to survive. It is not an all or nothing proposition," Novack says.
But who proposed that giving away news for free was a good fiscal move? Did media pay through the nose by allowing their websites to be seen for free? The Times is currently experimenting with a new pay-per-view system that has the uptight industry watching online.
Closing the barn door too late? "Well," laughs Novack, "maybe some 'animals' will return" to the fold.
But has the kingdom and the power petered out? "There is a new breed of journalist," allows the filmmaker, not ink-stained but Internet and Twitter-tattooed.
Sign of the Times — more "exit" than "enter"? Whatever, this is not the first time Novack and Rossi have been entwined with the paper's pages. Their first close encounter came nine years ago — when their wedding announcement appeared in its social section.
Who knew, she concedes, that within a decade they both would be wedded for months to the prospect of getting out all the news that's fit to print — onto a screen to watch?