The Fourth Estate is a documentary that follows reporters, editors and newspaper brass at the Gray Lady herself as they skip and rush around trying to cover the unexpected rise of Donald Trump to the Oval Office and the ensuing first year of his presidency.
More than that, it promises potential footage of New York Times reporters as they cover the breaking scandal (that every day turns out to be more and more of a huge nothingburger) that would become known as the Russian Collusion Investigation.
The Showtime description of the film is telling:
“From the first time President Trump called The New York Times ‘highly inaccurate’ in its coverage of his administration, through his false claim that the paper is ‘failing’ and losing thousands of subscribers, to ultimately declaring the majority of the nation’s major news outlets ‘fake news,’ a chief task for the Times, long considered the ‘newspaper of record,’ has been to find the best way to accurately and honestly cover this new and unconventional president.
“With unprecedented access to the inner workings of the Times, including filming inside closed-door meetings, rare interviews with the editors and reporters who cover the President and the tumult around him, as well as an insider’s view of the Sulzberger family publisher transition, Garbus intimately chronicles the tenacious men and women in the trenches who are fighting for the freedom of the press and America’s right to know.”
It’s strikingly apparent that at least part of the impetus for making the documentary was to clap back at a president who had so vocally criticized the press, and specifically the New York Times — to set the record straight about themselves, as it were.
But the Times may be falling prey to the same quicksand CNN found themselves in when they made themselves the story rather than covering the stories that actually matter to their viewing public. That immediate loss of respect and credibility wasn’t a result of Trump’s off the cuff criticism — rather, it stemmed from CNN’s overreaction to being criticized themselves (which is a tad hypocritical since that’s the charge they level at Trump).
The New York Times, in allowing a documentary crew access to how they work, while certainly their right, may find that they don’t come out looking as objective as they believe themselves to be. But we’ll have to wait until May to see for ourselves.
The Fourth Estate is produced by RadicalMedia for Showtime and premieres Sunday, May 27, at 8 pm ET/PT.