I recently saw the shot-over-the-shoulder documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times”. Just as I had predicted, it was about the New York Times.
The movie itself is a mash of storylines over the span of 2010. It’s interesting to watch journalists – whose jobs are brutally deglamorized by stacks upon stacks of paper, sweaty brows and panicked hairstyles – scurry around speaking to each other in measured and concise language. But director Andrew Rossi scrambles the breaking of significant stories - like Wikileaks, and the collapse of Sam Zell and the Tribune Company - to the point of confusion. However, the underlying story remains the same throughout; everything is changing and the evolution of news is scary for the New York Times, but let them list the reasons of why you still need them.
In an age when newspapers are desperately trying to stay relevant/profitable/alive, the Times carries a reputation better suited for the onslaught of digital media than most other papers.
But does this mean they are home free? Do they avoid the demise that so many other newspapers have met because they are one of the biggest and best? Absolutely not.
The state of newspaper advertising alone looks about as promising as my golden retriever performing open-heart surgery on me, or to be fair, me performing open-heart surgery on my golden retriever. Either way, not good. People don’t read the paper to decide what kind of car/proctologist/hockey helmet/exterminator/loafers/5-iron/lawn mower they’re going to buy. Instead, they use a thing called a website. Goodnight, newspaper ads. May you and your BLOWOUT SALES rest in peace.
Yes, I think there will always be a place for news printed on paper. And by always, I am referring to my lifetime. If my children’s children don’t have something to line their budgie cages with, well then boo-hoo. They can buy the Budgie App for $2.99, or something.
But what I do think will survive is investigative journalism. Its largest threat is information reported by people like bloggers, vloggers, Twitter, and that guy that updates his Facebook statuses way too much. Yes, they have the potential to transmit information quickly, but proper and dependable news will always rely on trained, on-the-scene journalism. If I could only get my hands around the neck of a blogger…
It’s beginning to sound a little repetitive for my liking, but the fact remains that Twitter, or something like it, has the potential of being the main artery for news. That’s if it isn’t already.
Each day, business editors of newspapers are forced to print more and more obituaries for their own profession’s funeral, as their co-workers put their belongings in a cardboard box and take the elevator to the main floor. Interviewees in “Page 1” repeat - tirelessly - something to the tune of: “The New York Times going out of business just isn’t an option.”
But actually it is.
The New York Times is like Kobe Bryant: used to the feeling of being top dog, but in their old age have been forced to change. As Kobe’s gotten older, he’s improved his skills in the low-post because his first step and quickness on the perimeter won’t be around forever. Similarly, the Times is forced to diversify its platforms as people consume their news in new ways. They have hundreds of blogs. They have a daily news video report. But competing with the speed and freedom of the Internet is tough. Sure, the Times has a website. But they charge a small, more-than-fair amount of money for it, and thus people do not subscribe. If they don’t charge you for it, then they’re eating pizza pops in their parents’ basement.
I would suggest this movie to anybody that plans on being alive for the next twenty years, because that’s who it should be speaking to. But then again, I heard Lion King 3D is pretty good too.