One Year at the Times

The New York Times is, unquestionably, the most prestigious and powerful of all American newspapers.  It was therefore quite a coup for Producer/Director Andrew Rossi to gain access to the Times newsroom for an entire year to educate the American public about the current state of affairs in the media industry.

The greatest concern today is whether the newspaper industry can survive much longer.  At the time when this story was being filmed, advertising revenues, the main source of income for newspapers, had declined 30%.  The paper loses money daily with its publishing expenses.

                                       The New York TimesCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                      The New York Times - Wikimedia

The Incursion of the Internet

The Internet is now the main news and advertising source for the majority of American people, with the arrival of competitors like the iPad, Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, and Craig’s List, to name a few.  Newspapers throughout the country have gone into bankruptcy.  Some have been saved by adding an online edition and charging for the service.

The Journalist’s Day

Rather than undergoing interviews, the writers and officials at the newspaper were shown at their work, which informed the viewers of the topics of the day which absorbed their interest.

David Carr is a columnist and reporter who admitted that he had been a cocaine addict in his earlier days and spent time in jail.  He turned his life around to become an admired journalist at the newspaper he loves.  We observed his workday as he was deeply involved in the research and writing of a story about the Tribune which went into bankruptcy and was castigated in the news for episodes of sexual harassment which were revealed by an anonymous letter to the Times.  NYT is almost over-solicitous about printing only what is true.  David Carr’s story was printed.

                                                 David CarrCredit: Wikimedia Commons              

                                                                David Carr - Wikimedia

I liked the episode concerning the young and talented Tim Arango who was concerned, as were the officials at the paper, that there were no correspondents in Iraq to tell the true stories of our troops over there.  We need to go to a war zone in order to get that news originally.  Tim volunteered to go to Iraq and his colleagues gave him a fine send-off.  Tim rose to become the Baghdad Bureau Chief of the NY Times.

Ethical Failings

Judith Miller was featured in an episode.  During her tenure at NYT, Judith published a number of stories about the presence in Iraq of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).  Her stories of that presence were proven, too late, to be inaccurate and even based on outright lies.  She claimed that she had relied on sources that she had used often in the past, and wrote the articles in good faith.  The sense was that Judith Miller worked for the Times so she must be credible.  No one had the power to rein her in.  She was forced to leave her job. 


NY Times LogoCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                  Credit: Wikimedia               

Another reporter, Jason Blair, fabricated stories about being in Maryland and Texas when, all the time, he was in New York City.  He made up comments and events that never happened, and even stole articles from other newspapers to indicate that he was on the job and contributing his services.  He resigned from the paper under the heat of intense scrutiny.

Jill Abramson, the Executive Editor of the paper, appeared fleetingly in the film, mostly in the background.  She succeeded Bill Keller, who is seen frequently in the film, before he retired.  His contributions to the Times were significant.  Abramson has also been replaced since the film was released.


Julian AssangeCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                              Julian Assange of WikiLeaks - Wikimedia    


Julien Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was interviewed briefly.  WikiLeaks was responsible for obtaining millions of documents of classified information from anonymous sources.  WikiLeaks gained a lot of notoriety when the documents were published in the paper. The incident was compared to another exposure many years ago when the Times published the Pentagon Papers.

Gay Talese

Producer Andrew Rossi’s effort was not original.  In 1969, Gay Talese wrote a telling story “The Kingdom and the Power:  Behind the Scenes at the New York Times:  The Institution that Influences the World.”  Gay Talese knew the inner workings of the paper intimately, having worked there for twelve years.


Brian StelterCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                              Brian Stelter - Wikimedia

A Joke About Buffalo

It was mentioned that Brian Stelter covered the President’s travels.  When he was planning to join the entourage when the President visited Buffalo, one of his fellows claimed that it would not be newsworthy.  The friend stated “The last President who made news in Buffalo got shot,” referring, of course, to President McKinley.  Since I am a Buffalonian, I enjoyed that quip immensely.

The Demise of the Newspaper?

There was a brief interview with the author of a notorious “Atlantic” article which predicted the demise of the newspaper.  Earning reports and rumors of huge debt sparked the idea that the print form of the paper would soon be non-existent.  The present viability of the paper has, fortunately, proved the prediction to be off the mark.  In truth, the company was forced to trim 100 persons from their staff.  There were a lot of unemployed people, a lot of scared people.

                                       New York Times NewsroomCredit: Wikimedia Commons 

                                                New York Times Newsroom - Wikimedia

Television Media Look to the Times

The remark was made that the first thing that NBC, CBS, and ABC do in the morning is to look at the NYT.  It was also pointed out that there was a partnership between CNN and the newspaper.  CNN listened closely to the Times.  People who are 49 years old are watching CNN, but young people like the paper.

New Vocabulary

I learned some journalese lingo while watching this film.  One of the writers referred to “tick-tock” and said it meant the details behind the scenes.  I looked it up and it was defined as “a step-by-step account of how a particular event or phenomenon developed.”  Interesting.  The term “aggregation” was also discussed.  It denotes a web site which gathers content from other web sites without paying for it.

The writers meet twice a day.  The first meeting is at 10:30 a.m. when each one presents and discusses the story that he or she is following.  (There was a dearth of female writers in this film.)  The second meeting is at 4:00 p.m. when the editors announce their decision on which stories go into the paper.  The City Room is the central office, the magisterial place where big things happen.  It was mentioned that 50 papers are automatically sent to the White House.


The Pulitzer PrizeCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                     Credit: Wikimedia

The Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prizes, which are awarded each year by Columbia University, are regarded universally as the most prestigious in American journalism. The New York Times has been awarded 117 Pulitzer Prizes and citations, more than any other news organization.

I learned a great deal from this film, and have an increased respect for the career of journalism.  I recall, when I was in high school, we were asked to write an essay on what career we wanted to follow.  I wrote that I wanted to be a newspaper reporter.  I truly regret that I did not follow up on that early ambition.