by Jim Ridley
Tonight, The Belcourt continues its month-long "Doctober" round-up of current documentaries with Page One: Inside The New York Times, an account of the Gray Lady's struggles in the new-media age and its efforts to ward off premature obits for print journalism. After the 2:30 p.m. screening tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 8), there'll be a panel discussion with Pith contributor Bruce Barry and City Paper editor Steve Cavendish, hosted by Tennessee Citizen Action executive director (and Rev. Al Sharpton's favorite guest) Mary Mancini.
Also showing this weekend is The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, which Ron Wynn reviews in this week's issue (with a panel discussion coming next Wednesday). In the meantime, here's Steven Hale in this week's Scene:
With lingering doom as an ever-present theme — there are times when talk of a pale horse would not seem inappropriate — the doc follows a variety of storylines and characters, and attempts to do so in roughly 90 minutes. The Times' own review (written by Bloomberg's Michael Kinsley, presumably to avoid a conflict on par with that of a father evaluating his son's T-ball team) called the film "a mess." I'll not go that far, but there is certainly a lot going on.
Among the overlapping narratives: WikiLeaks; former Times reporter Judith Miller's faulty reporting; Jayson Blair's fictional (or stolen) reporting; media takeovers (Comcast/NBC); media collapses (the Tribune Co.); layoffs at the Times and elsewhere. The cast of characters is composed primarily of those working the company's media desk. Chief among them is David Carr, a former drug addict, veteran journalist and lovable curmudgeon who is responsible for the film's best moments.
Carr is juxtaposed with blogger-turned-Timesman Brian Stelter, a new-school type stunned by the very idea of any journalist lacking a Twitter account. Carr's comment on Stelter illustrates the increasingly apparent anxiety of the ink-stained-wretch class: "I still can't get over the feeling that Brian Stelter was a robot assembled in the basement of The New York Times to come and destroy me."