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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Page One

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Ever hear of WikiLeaks? When the New York Times began publishing “The War Logs”, a collection of classified military documents in 2010, many decried this as unethical and unpatriotic. The New York Times, with members of the board from the same family that has owned it since 1896, went with the stories and documents anyway, maintaining its journalistic independence.
 
But what kind of journalism is WikiLeaks? It’s an online entity – no paper involved at this stage if at any. Is it a news source or a news organization? This question, and many more, is explored in this fascinating documentary that follows four Times journalists throughout 2010 and the morphing of a newspaper into a multiplatform source for news.
 
Nostalgia is present in the film as well; Carl Bernstein talks about how the Washington Post  brought down a president with its reporting on Watergate in the 1970s. Hard reporting, confirming details, checking sources.  Then there is embarrassment, but owning up to the worst in journalism, when New York Times reporter Judith Miller’s stories hyped Hussein’s search for weapons of mass destruction, information that proved to be false, but fed into President Bush’s decision to go to war.
 
The most interesting issue for me was about the face-off between news as business  for profit and news as an essential element of democracy. When the Tribune Company (that owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and other outlets and companies) filed for bankruptcy protection in December, 2008, the face-off shown in the film between businessmen who know nothing of journalism and journalists who do what they do as a calling, made me want to stand up and cheer for freedom of the press.
 
The question for the New York Times, and every other newspaper still in existence in the United States (so many have folded – literally), is how do you pay reporters and support news bureaus around the world? Print advertising diminished so fast that newspapers were left gasping for funds as loyal employees were laid off. You find revenue through online subscriptions and online advertising, in addition to publishing the news on paper.
 
“Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times” only touches the myriad issues and challenges to authentic journalism. The film is imperative for citizens who want to participate in a democracy rather than a political economy.
 
 


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