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Gay Talese on ‘Page One’ and How Journalism Hasn’t Changed



By Max Linsky | TakePart.com   The New York Times always seems to have a star of the moment. For the last few weeks, the role has been played by Bill Keller, who announced he would step down as executive editor and lit up the Internet with a screed against Twitter. With Friday’s release of Page One, the attention will no doubt shift to David Carr, who seems just as comfortable being the story as he does reporting it. But at a discussion about the film last night at the TimesCenter, even with Keller and Carr on stage, the star of the panel was a reporter who hasn’t worked for the Times in more than 40 years: Gay Talese.   Talese got his start as a copyboy at the Times in 1953. Sixteen years later, he published the definitive book on the place, The Kingdom and the Tower. And last night, with his trademark pocket square perfectly aligned, Talese brought that institutional wisdom to bear.   Page One is a portrait of a newspaper in transition, an in-depth look at a moment defined by rapidly evolving technology. And while nobody speaks with more confidence and flair than Carr about how the web is reshaping what it means to be a journalist, Talese reminded the crowd that the conversation isn’t a new one.   When he showed up in the newsroom at age 22, Talese remembered, the veterans all gave him the same piece of advice: stay away from the telephone.   “You have to be there,” Talese said. “You have to get your feet on the ground and you have to see it yourself and you have to bring your own sense of values to what you report.”   Sticking to your values, of course, is a major theme in Page One. There is discussion of Jayson Blair and Judith Miller, of working with WikiLeaks and an extended scene about how to cover—or not cover, as it turned out—an apparent PR stunt in Iraq.   But while much of Andrew Rossi’s film takes place in the newsroom, the necessity of leaving the building pops up again and again. A young reporter named Tim Arango heads off to cover the war in Iraq. Carr sits in on a staff meeting at Vice and commiserates with media-watchers in Austin and Minneapolis. And every time someone defends the paper, its reporters on the ground in every corner of the world are the first talking point.   That breadth of coverage is part of why Talese said he still spends two hours reading the print edition every morning. The other part? Serendipity. Journalism can’t be done by drones, he told the crowd last night, and the Times is a daily reflection of that.   “Journalism still has to still be, as it was when I was a kid, it has to be footwork,” Talese said toward the end of the evening. “You have to be out there, not always knowing where you’re going, and not always knowing where they story is. You have to be able to discover things by chance.”   Then Carr jumped in, as he does so many times in Page One, and eloquently put it another way. “If you’re so busy producing media,” he said, “you not only don’t consume enough media. You don’t consume enough life.”   http://www.takepart.com/article/2011/06/15/gay-talese-page-one-and-how-journalism-hasnt-changed