Remembering David Carr

Editor's Note: Like many people, I was deeply saddened to hear of New York Times columnist David Carr's passing this morning.  Many STU students remember the fantastic talk he gave at 2013's Dalton Camp Lecture in journalism at our school.  To remember Carr, we are running a story that was written on Nov. 8, 2013, the day after the lecture.  Thanks for the great lessons, Mr. Carr.

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We live in an age of companion media.  With smart-phones, tablets and e-readers, the days of “just reading the news” are over.  Today’s news comes with a side order of texting.

“The challenge for media is fight your way out of the clutter, to be the signal amidst all the noise,” said New York Times columnist David Carr at St. Thomas University on Thursday.  Carr gave the annual Dalton Camp Lecture in journalism.

Addressing a packed auditorium of 400, Carr spoke about the changing media landscape, and what it means for the future of journalism.  He pointed to the recent Rob Ford scandal as an example of today’s reporting.

“What brought him down?” Carr asked.  “Was it The Toronto Star?  Was it Gawker?  Was it some intrepid reporter?  Not really.  It was one person with a cell phone.”

Still, the sun hasn’t set on traditional media, said Carr.  With Gawker and The Toronto Star working together to expose the Ford videos, the new media is partnering with the old.  “My prediction is, they’ll meet in the middle,” said Carr.

The new media is also investing in the old.  Recently, Pierre M. Omidyar, the founder of eBay, announced that he was investing $250 million into an online venture with journalist Glenn Greenwald.  This summer, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for the same amount.

“You have two very competitive, super-talented digital pioneers in Mr. Omidyar and Mr. Bezos, now in the content space,” said Carr.  “That’s got to be good for us.”

This alliance of technology and serious reporting isn’t new.  It’s a concern shared by Silicon Valley CEOs, from Apple’s Tim Cook to Google’s Eric Schmidt.  “They’re worried about the quality of information,” said Carr.  “They don’t want the internet to be this big cesspool.”

Carr believes today’s consumers are living in their own “media cocoons,” with technology calling the shots.  However, Carr says the clock is ticking on companion media.

“I feel like at a certain point, people are just going to start pushing back.”