It wasn't a stellar week for deep exegeses on the media business, but it was a great week for critiques, self-critique, attacks and put-downs. Perhaps the most unexpected came today, when The New York Times published a scathing review of the otherwise well-reviewed documentary "Page One," which is about, of course, the Times.
The Times had assigned the review to an outsider, Michael Kinsley, in order to avoid a conflict of interest. Mr. Kinsley takes his freedom of conflict and runs with it:
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. It is done in the documentary style of his 2007 film, "Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven," in which fly-on-the-wall scenes are interwoven with direct-to-the-camera interviews. This style is now often imitated, or parodied, in TV sitcoms like "The Office" and "Modern Family." It keeps things moving but requires some discipline, which "Page One" utterly lacks. It flits from topic to topic, character to character, explaining almost nothing.
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.
The biggest star of "Page One," David Carr, is meanwhile disappointed with himself for dressing up for an Aaron Sorkin interview about the movie. Capital New York's Tom McGeveran finds Mr. Carr probably overdoing the regret:
But then, last week, there was Sorkin's interview, and accompanying it, as Carr had darkly presaged to himself: a black-and-white glamour photo of him, his eyes looking straight at you from beneath their slightly droopy lids, the right iris only a point of reflected light in the shadow from under the black fedora he's either just put on or taken off his forehead at a severe downward angle; his ropy neck, which in real life suggests the gnarled age and harsh weather legible in the trunk of a great, desiccated oak on some Minnesota prairie, largely covered up in a high, starchy white collar. A striped tie in a neat, small, retro knot blends into the black dinner jacket, with a polka-dot pocket square poking from the front chest pocket.
"That probably is the worst decision that I have made in doing press," Carr said. "My wife was just appalled by it, as am I. I liked the interview and would have liked to tweet it out and, all due respect to the guys ... it's something I just can't look at. It is deeply, deeply embarrassing to me. If there is one image out on the web, and there are some bad ones, that I could remove, I would remove that one."
The worst smack talk this week came from Deadline.com's Nikki Finke, who took the departure of Deadline's publisher for The Hollywood Reporter as an occasion to attack. She alleges that the publisher tried to make Deadline a shill for advertisers, which the publisher soon disputed, and forced her to churn out content for print editions that would rake in "For Your Consideration" ad spending around awards season:
After I was done with all 7 Awards print editions, I suffered exhaustion and worsened insulin-dependent diabetes. She didn't care.
The Wrap let the publisher, Lynne Segall, respond:
As for Finke, "Deadlines are hard for her. It put a lot of pressure on her," she said.
But, she added, "I didn't give her diabetes."
Finally, we turn to Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, who took a swipe at the sad music business this week to make his cable colleagues feel better about their own digital challenges. Blogger and Spytap Industries founder Barrett Garese didn't think Mr. Bewkes had the standing to judge:
"Let's cheer up. This is not the music industry; this is the cable industry," Bewkes said before rearranging a few deck chairs and renaming a large blanket "Innovation."