Some are calling David Carr the “breakout star” of Page One, the documentary that takes you inside The New York Times‘ newsroom. But for us who have seen Carr participate in two panels before, his performance in the movie didn’t come as a surprise.
During both the screening of the film and the panel that followed, Carr was the main attraction. We’ve pointed out before how Carr’s tone and delivery come with a certain calmness that sets the audience at ease and, in turn, calls for a certain trust from his onlookers. Those skills probably help him in his reporting, and have thrust him into the spotlight when he and others discuss Page One. No wonder he’s such a frequent panelist at media events.
At the top of this panel, Keller admitted that on his first viewing several months ago, he believed that the movie was far too long at 90 minutes. Rossi said that he wanted to include more than just The Times‘ media department, he wanted to showcase the “moment of great crisis across the board” for the entire journalism field. This is what Carr called a “Death Valley moment” where no one – even Times reporters – really knew what was in store for the nation’s top newspaper, and whether it could survive tough economic times and uncertainty.
For all the changes that journalism is enduring now, Gay Talese said he believes that to do it right you have to be out in the field. Technological advances have definitely changed things, Talese said, but he recalled being advised when he was a budding reporter to shy away from the telephone. The panelists all have a great sense of honor for the legacy of the newspaper, Talese even rebuffing a suggestion that he was a pioneer for The New Journalism. He said that even he learned it from his predecessors. Talese said that he still reads The Times every day, which takes him two hours.
So will The Times live on? Rossi isn’t sure if journalism will remain the same on a new platform. Carr, however, thinks The Times will survive, even if only as a status symbol. When you’re on your iPad, he said, it’s impossible to tell if you’re reading The New York Times or not. Echoing this sentiment were two people sitting in front of us at the event who made it difficult to tell if they were tweeting about the panel on their iPhones or just checking their email.
What They Said
“One thing we have in this family is the belief in freedom of the press even if it’s all about the press. And that’s a great tradition.”
– Gay Talese praises the Sulzbergers for their commitment to the paper
“I got sent down to Katrina but it was after the gossip columnists but before the architecture critics.”
– David Carr says that while he enjoys his media beat, it’s not exactly the most pressing one at the paper
“He would never have let The Daily Show in.”
– Bill Keller jokes about David Carr’s news judgment being better than his.
“I didn’t aspire to be a foreign correspondent because the story really was New York. The story was America.”
– Gay Talese kept his interests local
“[Brian Stelter] is really like an avatar for the new media, even establishing his own brand within the paper.”
– Andrew Rossi was impressed by the work ethic of the media reporters he shadowed
What We Thought
- Keller did a great job in a short amount of time asking the right questions. He focused on Carr and Talese for their reactions to the film and thoughts on the future of journalism, while turning to Rossi for the outsider perspective. It was a panel that could have gone the other way, being that Rossi was out of his element on a panel with three journalism veterans, but Keller managed to incorporate Rossi in when he could shed some light, too.
- In the Thank Yous at the closing of the film, we couldn’t help but notice that alphabetically, “The White House” came just before “WikiLeaks.org.” If that doesn’t speak to the current media landscape, we don’t know what does.
- Carr said that Jayson Blair was one of his close friends at The Times when he first arrived there. It seems to still shake him how someone could get away with that at The Times.
This panel didn’t feature any audience questions, possibly an effort to get the audience out at a decent hour. After two hours of sitting, we were somewhat relieved to be sent on our way.
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