MCN Columnists
Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

David Carr Talks Times And “Going Toward Things”

David Carr, empaneled

THE AFTERNOON AFTER THE SUNDANCE 2011 PREMIERE OF Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times—where post-screening Tweeters were well-impressed that New York Times reporter David Carr was greeted at the Q&A afterwards with a “rock-star standing ovation”—director Andrew Rossi and Carr talked about media at a casual Bing Bar panel moderated by Anne Thompson of indieWIRE’s Thompson on Hollywood. (Halfway through, Thompson announced the film had been bought for summer release through Magnolia and Participant.)

“We all have more tools than any newsroom when I first walked into one. That guy in the front row,” Carr says, “he’s posting, he’s shooting video, he’s probably recording, he’s tweeting, he’s doing God knows what.” But if you’re producing content, he says, “You don’t have time to consume any of it. The more you write, the stupider you get.” Still, his advice for young writers who want to advance is a simple trio of questions: “What can you make? What can you build? Again and again?”, using those tools.

Anticipating the spring launch of the Times paywall, he jokes that the paper is saying, “‘Hey, how about giving us some sugar, since we see you coming around?’ We’re going to try and preserve our visibility on the web but create another source of revenue.”

Thompson asks about aggregators that don’t offer link-backs or that go beyond fair use, after she wonders if Michael Wolff‘s Newser is “the enemy.” Carr says, “We don’t have much to worry about because Newser seems to be tanking.” (Appreciative, if nervous laughter all around.) “The killer app on the web is, and always has been news,” he continues. “You can’t just put some topspin on what someone else said and expect to make a living. We have 1,100 people in the newsroom. It’s very expensive, but it can be very lucrative as well.”

Carr and Wolff had a conversation at Sundance 2010. “Michael said, I’m not a business reporter, and I said, ‘Yeah, it’s manifest in what you wrote.'” As for electronic-vs.-print as a way to produce income, Carr says, “We’re going to get a look with Rupert Murdoch‘s iPad newspaper, The Daily. But for legacy businesses like us, we put white paper on the street and we bring green paper back in. That’s our job.” He cites Politico.com putting a paper on the streets of D.C. and the seemingly unlikely merger that is the NewsBeast. Still, Carr thinks the different way the iPad is perceived will seduce news consumers away from the idea that information on the internet should be free.

There’s a question from the audience about WikiLeaks and the Times. “Yesterday, apparently, WikiLeaks said on Twitter that the New York Times is in the service of the government.” A pause. “Let’s say the relationship is evolving.” WikiLeaks, he thinks, needs its old media partners not just to disseminate, but also to contextualize its revelations. “It gets so much more bounce when it’s edited and backgrounded.”

Of the documentary itself, “There’s stuff in there we don’t like,” Carr says, bluntly, drawing laughs with his timing, saying that a lot of the figures on the screen are “these hambone white guys, we’re unhappy to have their every move looked at.” Rossi notes that there were fourteen reporters on the media desk when he began shooting; two were women, and both declined to participate.”

Carr estimates he has 290,000 Twitter followers, but if he weren’t a Timesman, he’d likely have only 290. “I have this nice, personal brand, but the fact that it’s stapled to this huge megaphone is what makes it important.”

He was in New Jersey on 9/11 and told his wife he was in the wrong state, he should be in New York. “Dude, everybody’s leaving the city. You’re not going to get in, you shouldn’t come in. The one thing that is sort of true even of people like me, and I don’t do the most mission-critical job at the New York Times, by a long shot. But the impulse is to go toward things, that’s what we do. We go toward things.”

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Do you know about Pokémon Go?
No. I don’t know what Pokémon Go is and what all these things are. You’re talking to somebody who made his first phone call at age 17. You’re talking to someone who doesn’t have a cell phone, for example, for cultural reasons. Tell me about Pokémon Go. What is happening on Pokémon Go?

It’s basically the first mainstream augmented reality program. It’s a game where the entire world is mapped and you walk around with the GPS on your phone. You walk around in the real world and can catch these little monsters and collect them. And everybody is playing it.
Does it tell you you’re here at San Vicente, close to Sunset Boulevard?

Yeah, it’s basically like a Google map.
But what does Pokémon do at this corner here?

“To make work out of your own imagination is an invitation to a lot of unforgiving hard slog, failure, satisfaction which doesn’t last long, more failure, discontent, maybe a prize, a bit more satisfaction, self doubt, dissatisfaction, lots more hard work and so on and so on. But anyone who’s persisted and written something and got to the end and even better had it published or performed learns quickly that the hard slog, the frustrations, the blind alleys and dead ends and scenes that don’t work and great ideas that turn to dust are in fact a big part of the work. The reward for the agony is not the ecstasy of Chuck Heston finishing the Sistine Chapel but still more agony that might also include some kind of not pleasure exactly, maybe a brief, terrible joy.”
~ Australian playwright Michael Gow

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