Inside D.C. entertainment

'Page One' premiere at the Newseum: Brian Stelter on how Twitter helps journalism — and paywalls

June 16, 2011 - 08:17 AM
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In this scene from 'Page One,' David Carr crosses his arms and reclines.

It’s easy to call Page One: Inside the New York Times an exercise in navel-gazing.

The film documents the inner workings of the newspaper and observes how the Gray Lady reacts and adapts to the rapidly changing media landscape. It had its Washington debut last night at the Newseum.

Brian Stelter, who reports on media for the Times and is featured in the film, says Page One is about much more than him and his colleagues.

“I don’t think it’s a vanity project,” he says. “It’s a project that looks at journalism. It’s not about the reporters and editors. It’s not about the New York Times even. It’s about journalism and news.”

Filmmakers Andrew Rossi and Kate Novack spent a year following four journalists on the Times’ media desk: reporters David Carr, Timothy Arango, and Stelter and editor Bruce Headlam.

The film captures everything from the controversy over the newspaper printing classified cables obtained by Wikileaks to the effects of bloggers and social media on the newspaper industry.

Stelter, a media blogger turned reporter, was in D.C. for the film’s premiere and a panel discussion afterward.

The New York Times recently began charging for digital subscriptions. Stelter, who is 25, says he has concerns about his generation stepping up to the plate and shelling out cash for news subscriptions. He thinks the way to get consumers to pay is by proactively reaching out to readers and potential readers.

“We’ve got to make the sales pitch,” he says. “We do it by replying to reader emails and just acknowledging that the reader is out there.”

Stelter adds that Twitter has helped make journalists, especially those at the Times, more accessible.

“The Times, historically has been perceived to be a fortress…but those walls are eroding, and I think that’s a good thing,” he says. “If you are active on Twitter and we’re actively replying to you, maybe you’re 1 percent more likely to pay for the newspaper.”

Not only is the micro blogging website a way to connect to readers, but it also keeps Times reporters on their toes.

“Twitter makes us faster and smarter. It doesn’t change my day, but it probably changes how aware I am of the news. It makes me respond to the news faster,” Stelter says.

Despite the changing media world, Stelter says he still believes in journalism, though he does acknowledge that newspapers may not matter that much in the long run.

“I have faith in newsrooms. I’d like newspapers to be around in 50 years, but I don’t think it matters much,” he says, adding that so long as journalists report the news “whether it is printed on paper or not doesn’t really matter.”

"Page One: Inside the New York Times" opens in Washington on July 1.

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