Page One: Inside the New York Times

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Page One: Inside the New York Times Movie Poster Image
Dynamic, absorbing documentary has some strong language.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 88 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Several big thinkers try to wrestle with the question of what will happen to the newspaper business in general and the New York Times in particular; it's an unanswerable question, but the reporters at the Times work hard to overcome the depressing odds and solve these problems.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The movie focuses mostly on three reporters and one editor, all of whom try to work hard, hang onto their integrity, and keep a positive outlook for the future. One of them, David Carr, uses foul language and sometimes seems abrasive, but he's also the most outspoken cheerleader for the paper.

Violence

A couple of YouTube clips depict violence in the Middle East, specifically shootings, as well as some other vaguely disturbing imagery. The footage is brief and blurry, and without spoken descriptions, viewers likely wouldn't be able to tell what was being shown.

Sex

Some sexual innuendo, in the context of a reporter working on a story.

Language

Language isn't constant, but one scene in particular contains many uses of "f--k." That word also appears a few more times throughout the rest of the movie; others include "hell," "goddamn," "s--t," and "p--y."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character is a recovering drug addict. He talks openly about his problem, which is in the past.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this documentary about the last few turbulent years in the history of the New York Times is rated R primarily for its strong but infrequent language, which includes several uses of "f--k," as well as "s--t" and "p---y." There's some sexual innuendo in the context of a newspaper story, and viewers see some vaguely disturbing YouTube video footage. One reporter is also a recovering drug addict; he talks openly about his past problem. While its content may not be age-appropriate for younger viewers, this dynamic documentary has the power to inspire teens and up to get involved in the exciting business of journalism.

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What's the story?

In PAGE ONE, filmmaker Andrew Rossi (a producer on the documentary Control Room) gains unprecedented access to the New York Times newsroom for a year. He focuses mainly on three top reporters -- recovering drug addict David Carr, former blogger Brian Stelter, and Tim Arango, who decides to transfer to Baghdad -- and follows the process and creation of a handful of news stories, from their inception to their publication. The movie also looks a bit into the paper's troubled recent history, including the scandals surrounding Judith Miller and Jayson Blair, as well as the rise of the Internet and the drastic impact of the recession. Ultimately Page One asks the unanswerable question: Can the New York Times survive, and what would happen if it didn't?

Is it any good?

Overall, this is a dynamic, supple documentary, open to differing opinions and ideas without concluding anything. It finds a good, rich balance of characters, and strikes gold with Carr, who's a hardened, cynical character unafraid to speak the truth; viewers see him striking down his opponents as well as bestowing his love and respect upon colleagues. 

It's fascinating to watch Carr and his fellow reporters work, often waiting for calls to be returned or for elusive final confirmations. But the victories are here, too; in its way, Page One is as exciting a newspaper movie as All the President's Men. In a relatively brief span, the movie covers an amazing rich amount of material, and though it doesn't paint a rosy picture, it certainly doesn't pronounce the paper dead, either. Ultimately, it provides a certain amount of hope.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's central argument. How important is the New York Times? Would Internet news sites be able to operate as well without the content coming from the big city paper?

  • What is the future of journalism? How has the changing media landscape affected both the business and the art of reporting? Do you think print papers can survive in the long term?

  • Considering some of the Times' embarrassments in recent years (Judith Miller, Jayson Blair), is the paper still trustworthy? How important is reputation in the world of news and journalism?

  • Are the violent imagery, strong language, and sexual innuendo in the movie necessary? Are they needed in the context of writing newspaper stories?

Movie details

For kids who love true stories

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