New York Times Imports Brickbats for New York Times Movie

Michael Kinsley, brought to avoid a conflict of interest, calls "Page One" a mess

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Page One: Inside The New York Times, a new documentary film by Andrew Rossi, is about The New York Times, a newspaper that regularly reviews documentary films. So how would The New York Times write about Page One. Quite the conundrum! Their solution: bring in an outsider. In this case, Michael Kinsley: founder of Slate, current columnist for Politico and beloved former editor at large of The Atlantic Wire. The film has been on a love parade through the media, since it's not only about one of the most prestigious names in the media but has a fascination with two of the paper's media reporters, David Carr and Brian Stelter.

If The Times did not want to look like it was doing any favors to a movie that is a love letter to The Times, they've succeeded. Kinsley pretty much skewers it -- at one point he likens Rossi's direction to a "a shopper at the supermarket without a shopping list" -- as well as the silliness of occupying The Times critic's seat in the first place:

"Page One: Inside The New York Times" is a documentary about this newspaper and the people who put it out. All of these people know far more than I do about The Times and are better positioned to judge the movie. But what might strike nonjournalists as an advantage looks to journalists like a disadvantage, in fact a disqualification. It’s a “conflict of interest.” I, by contrast, know almost nothing about how The New York Times works. 

Having seen “Page One,” I don’t know much more than I did before. The movie, directed by Andrew Rossi, is, in a word, a mess. 

On the interesting moment in time covered in the film and the uninteresting way it covered it:

The movie’s main theme, no surprise, is the struggle of The Times to survive in the age of the Internet. But it does little to illuminate that struggle, preferring instead a constant parade of people telling the camera how dreadful it would be if The Times did not survive. True, of course, but boring to the point of irritation after five or six repetitions.

And here's the rest of that shopping list quote:

Like a shopper at the supermarket without a shopping list, “Page One” careers around the aisles picking up this item and that one, ultimately coming home with three jars of peanut butter and no 2-percent milk.

"Page One" opens Friday at theaters nationwide.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.