David Carr, Andrew Rossi talk 'Page One,' Gawker, and the future of newspapers

Categories: Film and TV
Carr says he wants to write his next book on an iPad.
Last night, the documentary "Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times" premiered at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. The movie stars Minneapolis alt-weekly alumnus David Carr, who is now the Times' brashest media writer. We caught up with Carr and film director Andrew Rossi before the showing.

City Pages: Why do you think this story is best told as a movie rather than, say, a book?

Andrew Rossi:
I think it's the ability to see David in the flesh. The incredibly handsome man sitting next to me.

David Carr: You replaced me with this old homeless guy!

AR: You know, otherwise we'd need to have Hardy-Boy-style illustrations inside of the book...No, I've always been attracted to film as a medium that really succeeds in bringing something to life. I think that when you get journalists in an environment and in a period when the stakes are really high, which they were because of the economic conditions affecting newspapers, then you can really get some tremendous cinematic moments.

DC: I told Andrew that this is not the stuff of movies. You have middle-aged people typing in cubes with headsets on. And I think he proved me a liar. I think it looks and walks and talks like a movie, and the nice thing is through the magic of editing, all the broken plays, all the quotidian aspects of what I do and what you do, all the non-stories that you have to write anyway, you don't have to look at them. It's just like duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh, Everything's going along. It doesn't show me wandering around having no idea what I was doing, whether my story would work or not. It looks so much more heroic than what we actually do.

A lot of the movie is examining the mortality of the New York Times. Does the fact that this movie was made about the New York Times have dire implications for a smaller paper, say the Minneapolis Star Tribune or the St. Paul Pioneer Press, or is that an apples-and-oranges sort of comparison?

DC: I think the New York Times is in a different business than the regional papers. Regional papers, more so than community papers and national papers, are particularly imperiled. But if you look at the Star Tribune which was in bankruptcy, the last circulation period they upped Sunday circulation 5.7 percent. That's pretty impressive. That suggests that not only toes touched bottom, but maybe they'll come back a little bit.

AR: But I also think that the Times' decision ultimately to let cameras into the newsroom is part and parcel of an attempt to address some of the threats to mainstream journalism that this film is presenting. After some of the failures in the reporting in the run-up to the Iraq war, and also the Jayson Blair scandal, the paper decided to make some changes, one of which is to install a standards editor, and the other one I believe was to try to be more transparent. And so this film is helping to let people into the process that goes into the stories you read in that great newspaper. And it just provides some more color for people to understand what's happening, and I think that maybe you'll see something like that happening in regional papers or other papers, not trying to be so hermetically sealed. 

CP: Speaking of Jayson Blair, there's a part of the movie where you talk about Judith Miller and Jayson Blair and the people who look at them as a way to criticize the New York Times' credibility. Do you think that seriously has damaged the reputation of the New York Times, or is it just used as an excuse by people who would be hating on the New York Times anyway?

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