The New York Times versus Donald Trump is the great David and Goliath of the decade- or at least, that’s how it feels after watching part one of the documentary series that recently won the Times a Pulitzer Prize.
The Fourth Estate: The First Hundred Days cleverly depicts the frenzied media during the time period directly following President Trump being sworn into office. Between Russian collusion and the constant criticism from the Oval Office, this film captures Trump’s obsession with the New York Times and the Times’s diligence in keeping up to date with the ever-changing news cycle. Funny at points and poignant at others, it is a testament to the dedication of journalism in the digital and modern age. Those featured in the documentary are well aware that they are living in a distinct part of history, and make efforts to reflect on how the media is changing even as they work to figure out what is happening.
At points, The Fourth Estate feels like a mystery, and it is indeed one many on the liberal side have been trying to solve for the past two years: what happened in the 2016 election? The Times is quick to admit they were wrong, and now they have to face the consequences. Beyond the facts and endless onslaught of new information and quotes, we are also able to watch the toll this work takes on the reporters. Many of them comment on how this has taken them away from their families, and there are visible yawns, calls for coffee, bags under people’s eyes…yet they keep going.
The Trump administration has knocked America off its usual course, and this documentary shows that for sure, but more than that, it portrays a dedicated editorial and reporting team. Sometimes at odds with each other, the Washington bureau and the New York Times headquarters have been reporting on the White House for years- and they aren’t going to be stopped by a new kind of president. The Fourth Estate releases as a four-part documentary on Showtime, Sunday, May 27th at 8 pm.
The doc world premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it was the closing night film.