“I thought I’d be on camera, so I dyed my hair, dressed as Julian Assange.”
David Carr is funny in way that you seem to believe he doesn’t know it. Or really does know and is skilled enough to keep you lulled by his apparent naiveté.
“This is a very handsome crowd,” he said, noting that documentary goers should be pasty from a lack of outdoor exposure.
Carr joined our audience at the Missouri Theatre by webcam, though we only had his voice.
He is one of the main subjects in the documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times.” Director Andrew Rossi and producer Josh Braun were also on hand for a Q/A session after the film, part of the True/False Film Festival this past weekend.
The film follows Carr and Times media editor Bruce Headlam through the paper’s coverage of the media industry. Much of the post-show discussion centered on the ideas of failing news organizations.
“The dichotomy between new and old media is becoming less relevant,” Carr said.
“Journalism was a business built on monopolies, a creature of good economic times.”
But Carr was optimistic about today’s fluidity. He believes it poses an opportunity for a deeper, richer experience of journalism as long as we can stabilize the economic model.
“Are they giving out cool red hats?” Carr asked, noticing an odd trend of audience headgear.
Launching into the why the NYT has continued to succeed, Carr was quick to respond. “It’s one of the keys to the film. What separates the NYT from other media out there, it’s the intermediation that goes on.”
“We celebrate writers for creating great stories,” Rossi jumped in, “but it’s the unsung heroes taking the fire and making sure that story gets in the paper.”
That high level of expectation attached to the Gray Lady gives her the ability to press on where others have faltered. Though one of the new media reporters interviewed in the movie debated that clout and leverage.
Has it gone too far, he questioned, to be able to simply say, I’m with the New York Times? Does that name lead to reckless reporting, a license to be another Judith Miller?
“I was scared shitless,” Carr said of the responsibilities. “You have an enormous amount of power, and I found it paralyzing for a while, the seriousness of it.”
Carr is as real on camera as he is in person. At the very least, go see the film for his humor. His response in the movie to the iPad: Is that a bridge to the future? Oh. No, it’s a gallows.
But Apple executions, be damned. Journalism is alive and feisty in the Carr universe.
“At the end of the day someone is going to have to make those phone calls. We can’t just Twitter back and forth to get the news that makes a working democracy.”