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Exclusive Clip: Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times, David Carr vs. Media, Reviews

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 20, 2011 at 12:09PM

Page One: Inside The New York Times has been generating an extraordinary amount of press---because it's a documentary about the Grey Lady, the most respected newspaper in the world, at a time of great change. And while one of its media department subjects David Carr wisely dodged filmmaker Andrew Rossi's offer to center the film on him, the NYT columnist and expert social mediaite nonetheless is risking James Franco levels of overexposure.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Page One: Inside The New York Times has been generating an extraordinary amount of press---because it's a documentary about the Grey Lady, the most respected newspaper in the world, at a time of great change. And while one of its media department subjects David Carr wisely dodged filmmaker Andrew Rossi's offer to center the film on him, the NYT columnist and expert social mediaite nonetheless is risking James Franco levels of overexposure.

Of course Carr and distributor Magnolia want the doc to do well--and the movie puts the paper in a positive light, even as executive editor Bill Keller is exiting the scene, partly due to the strains and challenges presented by the transition to digital. But Carr's press tour is also generating media scrutiny that sends folks to the Film Society at Lincoln Center's new Film Center, but also makes things dicey inside the paper itself.

The movie has scored strong reviews and opening numbers. See TOH's exclusive clip, below.

But celebrity can be a double-edged sword. A high-visibility employee with too many Twitter followers and press attention risks becoming a backlash target. See the NYT's own assigned review, by outsider and ex-Slate editor Michael Kinsley, who compares the film's method to the often-parodied direct-to-camera style shown in sitcoms like The Office. According to Kinsley, the film is incomprehensible:

“Like a shopper at the supermarket without a shopping list, Page One careers around the aisles picking up this item and that one, ultimately coming home with three jars of peanut butter and no 2-percent milk.” Kinsley’s full-tilt rant concludes, “The Times deserves a better movie, and so do you. See His Girl Friday again.”

The movie is lucky to have Carr in it. I am one of his many admirers, not only of his media column and reporting and writing skills but his canny understanding of new media--which as this movie reveals, is mixed with a healthy respect for the NYT and old media. The section on how Carr goes after Chicago Tribune Media is particularly intense and revealing of why society needs reporters with his integrity and zeal.

When I moderated a Sundance panel with Carr and Rossi, Carr was snappy, erudite and enlightening, while Rossi was a tad dry, earnest and pedantic. Thus Carr is the character that most brings this movie to life--and serves as its best promoter. “The killer app on the web is, and always has been news,” he said on the panel. "You can’t just put some topspin on what someone else said and expect to make a living. We have 1,100 people in the newsroom. It’s very expensive, but it can be very lucrative as well...I have this nice, personal brand, but the fact that it’s stapled to this huge megaphone is what makes it important.”

Here's a sampling of Page One coverage: Lisa Schwarzbaum's EW review; Coffee with David Carr, and the LAT.

[Maggie Lange contributed to this article. Photo of David Carr by Ray Pride, Movie City News.]

This article is related to: Box Office, Genres, Independents, Video, Stuck In Love, Reviews, Media, Documentaries, Trailers


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.