Timesmen React to Their Portrayal in Page One Documentary

By
David Carr.
David Carr. Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Page One: Inside the New York Times paints the Times’ media section as a testosterone-driven machine composed of Bruce Headlam, David Carr, and Brian Stelter — a sort of nerd Hangover trio. At a paper-sponsored screening of the film at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, we talked to them and director Andrew Rossi about how appearing in front of the cameras affected their relationships.

"The first time I met David, he told my wife, Kate, and I that he had been a drug addict and that he was going to write a book, Night of the Gun, about his textured life, quote unquote, then he asked us if we wanted to get a drink across the street." Somehow Rossi thought he heard, "Do you want to come up to my hotel room and smoke some crack?" Yipes. "I don't know why I interpreted it as that, but I basically looked at my wife, and I said, 'What do you want to do here?' And she heard it correctly, so she said, 'Let's go.' And then of course we had a drink at the bar and David had a Diet Coke. A friendship was born."

But filming the movie wasn't all fun and Diet Cokes. "If you want to signal to people that you’re a big jerk, walking around with a camera behind you is a good way to do it," said Carr. "I just noticed how boring my job was. I just would turn and say, 'I'm making another phone call for a story that probably won’t work out. Good luck with your movie, dude.' I mean, it made me grateful … but by the time the movie gets done, we look like action figures. Like, ‘WOW!’ But that really isn’t what our job is like."

Stelter, was also affected by watching himself on camera, because during filming he was also undergoing extreme weight loss due to diet and exercise. "It's hard watching the version of myself that's onscreen," he said. "When the film started production, I was 90 pounds heavier, and I lost weight as the film progressed, coincidentally. On the other hand, I'm glad I have a record of it. Even the parts that are unflattering are very true."

The absence of women in the documentary does not go unnoticed. "There are very few women in the documentary," admitted Headlam. "There were women in my group — two out of about ten reporters. They didn’t want to cooperate. My deal was I would ask them once if they wanted to cooperate but not again, because I didn’t feel it was fair as a boss to say you should do this." In the director's defense, "He tried very, very hard," Headlam added. "We have an incoming CEO, our editor is obviously a woman … there’s no end of powerful influential women at the New York Times." Men, he joked, might have been more willing to do the film for the same reason that male politicians seem to get into more attention-grabbing scandals than female politicians: "Because we're pigs."

A previous version of this post incorrectly quoted Bill Keller, when it should have been David Carr.