New Doc on Gray Lady Ignores Paper's Institutional Bias

What’s missing beyond the obvious bias debate is a shout out to the blogs which keep newspapers honest. Yes, your friendly neighborhood blogger can’t embed in a war zone, although some, like Michael Yon, do just that. And where would news aggregator sites be without a paper like the Times to provide the necessary links?

But bloggers can hold reporters feet to the fire when their accuracy falters. They also bring unique skill sets your average reporter and his editor might lack. Who stood a better chance of understanding the nuances of Twitter in the WeinerGate scandal, a general assignment reporter or a blogger who works the social media beat because it’s his passion?

Page One touches on some of the newspaper’s bigger headaches, from the Jayson Blair scandal to reporter Judith Miller’s reportage on weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the Iraq War. Naturally, the former is dealt with briefly, and the latter lets some talking heads attack the paper from the left.

If there’s a breakout star in Page One it’s David Carr, the husky-voiced media reporter who is the paper’s loudest defender and most charismatic talent. He’s a curmudgeon and a bright wit, a tireless worker and a recovering drug addict. The newspaper is his life, and his full-throttled defense of it can’t help but stir one’s emotions.

Carr embodies the old-world journalist trying to adapt to our Facebook age, admiring some of the newer wrinkles but bemoaning them all at once.

“Is that a bridge to the future? Oh, wait. It’s the gallows,” Carr cracks when news of the first wave of iPads hits.

And then we get the occasional comment from The Nation’s editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel.

“I think we’re in a dangerous moment in American journalism,“ vanden Heuvel says in summing up the Times’ plight. It’s a sure sign of the film’s own biases that it would call upon such a far-left scribe as a voice of reason.

That doesn’t diminish the bigger messages afoot. Even those who deride the New York Times for its biases will acknowledge the role large newspapers play in the media landscape.

Page One raises the key issues facing journalism today that will affect the way consumers get news in the next decade. If the film had tackled the paper’s ideological blinders, a more accurate version of the problem would have emerged.