3 Things the Movie “Page One: Inside the New York Times” Taught Me About Reporters

I’m a pretty big nerd when it comes to media – I’ve been known to follow reporters on Twitter like they’re celebrities, or sign up for tours of media organizations. So it probably comes as no surprise that when I saw last week that the documentary by Andrew Rossi, “Page One: Inside the New York Times” was available on on-demand, I immediately purchased it.

Page One, which premiered in 2011, takes us behind the scenes with reporters from the Times’ Media Desk (home to reporters like David Carr and Brian Stelter), revealing the following truths:

  1. Reporters are expected to do more, with less. Still.
    In the movie you see writers conducting interviews, typing up notes, negotiating quotes and tweeting away frantically. With budget cuts a central theme of the movie, it’s clear that reporters are tasked to do as much as they can – and that includes social media. The more you can provide a reporter to assemble a full package for a story (spokesperson, customer, artwork etc.), the more helpful you’ll be.
  2. Just because a reporter likes the story, doesn’t mean their Editor will. Or their Editor’s editor.
    Editors play a major role in the documentary, and as a viewer we’re even invited in to one of the two A1 meetings that happen everyday at the paper. In these meetings, all of the section reporters pitch their pieces directly to the Executive Editor. It’s no surprise that some of the stories just don’t make the cut. So it’s important to realize that there’s an entire chain of command happening behind the scenes every time you pitch a piece to a reporter.
  3. Reporters are tired of hearing you say what everyone else is already saying.
    At one point in the movie David Carr is conducting an interview over the phone, and he says “Okay, but everyone says that.” I think this is along the lines of saying, “We’re so thrilled to partner with…” or “We’re the leading company in the space…” To me, this is another lesson in why it’s so important for companies to truly differentiate their interviews with fresh content and real opinions – even if they’re controversial.

I highly recommend the movie, which also goes into detail on the plight of the media industry (filmed in 2009, the movie chronicles the industry during a time or major cutbacks and layoffs.) Check it out and let me know what you think!

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