One of the personal treats of FutureMedia Fest 2011 at the Georgia Tech Conference Center on Tuesday was getting to see "Page One: Inside The New York Times."
I'll admit that before looking over the program for FutureMedia, I had never heard of the movie, which premiered in January at the Sundance Festival. You'll be lucky to see it in a theater near you, I suspect, even an art house.
Judging from its Facebook page, it is being shown here and there. There was a showing at MIT in October with a panel discussion. Not many stayed on after a cocktail reception at the FutureMedia Fest (who knew there were other things to do in downtown Atlanta) to see the documentary.
But if you're into newspapers and the changes buffeting them, it's a must see. In late October, it was released on DVD and Blu-Ray. An excellent gift idea for the journalist on your list.
Jeff Jarvis and Clay Shirky are interviewed in the documentary as well as Alex Jones, who both wrote for and about The Times.
There's former executive editor Bill Keller agonizing over layoffs ("we should be wearing bloody butcher smocks") and holding budget meetings. There's archive footage of Timesmen Turner Catledge and Howell Raines. There's Gay Talesoe, who wrote one of the defining books on the paper (The Kingdom and the Power: Behind the Scenes at The New York Times: The Institution That Influences the World) talking about the Times.
It's an inside-peek at the Gray Lady.
All good stuff if you love journalism and the New York Times.
But the star of the movie is David Carr, self-described former cocaine addict and single parent on welfare who turned his life around to marry the New York Times.
Carr, in the movie is a one of those one-of-a-kind newspaper characters, the kind journalists tell stories about over beers: irreverent, at times odd (well, maybe most times) and passionate, always passionate about his craft. His takedown of Newser's Michael Wolff, as gifted as any with a sharp wit, but left speechless, at a panel will make you laugh.
The movie, directed by Andrew Rossi, and produced and written by Kate Novack and Ross, covers Carr's reporting of the incredible piece on the disaster of the Sam Zell era at the Tribune Co. as well as the breakdowns involving Judith Miller's Iraq coverage and the paper's partnership (or was it) with Wikileaks.
There's layoffs and iPads and pay walls and Twitter and corner newspaper hawkers. It's the old and the new; the blemishes and the beauty; the tumultuous and the trivial.
And through all the twists and turns, the good times and the bad, there are those like David Carr who know in their hearts, it's about fighting the good fight of journalism.