Sundance Interview: Andrew Rossi Goes Inside The New York Times With Page One
Times are tough for newspapers, as we all know, with declining advertising revenue and attention-hungry blogs all eating away at the profits and prestige that print media enjoyed for decades. Even The New York Times, one of America's oldest and still among our most trusted newspapers, couldn't escape the death knell; in early 2009 Michael Hirschorn wrote an article for The Atlantic that speculated that even the Times could go out of business, as early as that May, and that it could change the media landscape forever.
That article pricked the ears of Andrew Rossi, a documentary filmmaker who, like many Americans, had grown up respecting the Times and had a hard time imagining its absence. Inspired specifically by Times media reporter David Carr, Rossi decided to spend a year inside the Times newsroom, focusing on the reporters at the media desk and following their big stories, from that summer's withdrawal of troops from Iraq to the future of the paper itself. The result is Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times, a gripping and passionate documentary about the people Rossi met at the New York Times and the important, often groundbreaking work they're doing (you can read my full review of the movie, which premiered at Sundance and will be released later this year, here.)
I talked to Rossi a few days after I saw the film and stuck around for a Q&A with an enthralled audience, half of whom audibly gasped when Carr himself entered the screening room. Our conversation lasted nearly 20 minutes, and I'm bringing you close to the first half now, with the rest-- focusing on more specific details from the film-- to come closer to the release. I asked Rossi about how he met David Carr and decided to focus the documentary on him, then got into some of the details about one of the major plot threads of the film, the Times's decision to publish information dug up about the Afghanistan war (and later the State Department cables) by Wikileaks. It's been hard to avoid information about Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange in the last year, but if you want a better round-up of the Times's relationship with them than Rossi and I cover in the interview, you can read Times executive editor Bill Keller's account of his work with Assange here. Oddly enough, it was published during Sundance, just a few days after Page One's premiere.
Check out this segment of my interview with Rossi below, and if you like what you hear, or have any interest whatsoever in the future of journalism and how The New York Times is doing it right, see Page One in theaters later this year. I'll definitely keep you up to date on when that will happen, and will post the remainder of my interview then.
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