Remembering David Carr

Remembering David Carr

01 Feb Remembering David Carr

From print to digital, from photos to selfie sticks – David Carr moved with the times. Carr joined the New York Times in 2002, and remained at the publication until his death. He passed away on the 12th of February 2015, leaving behind a powerful reputation as a techno-savvy forward thinker.

Seen by many as the finest media reporter of our generation, David Carr never paused in the fast-paced digital media world. He conquered his cocaine addiction, and subsequently wrote his best-selling memoir: The Night of the Gun. He wrote for the Carpetbagger and starred in Andrew Rossi’s 2011 documentary Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times. Carr was not only a fearless writer; he was also at the forefront of journalism’s ongoing struggle to reinvent itself in the digital age. Carr “combined formidable talent as a reporter with acute judgement to become an indispensable guide to modern media,” stated Arthur Sulzberger, Jr, the publisher of the New York Times.

At the end of 2014, Carr started applying his multimedia journalistic talents to a different field – teaching. He travelled to Boston University once a week, whilst still maintaining his post at the New York Times, using his life-long skills in writing to become a professor of communication. His course curriculum covered varied topics such as “new business models for storytelling” and “writing for an audience of visual learners”. Carr knew the challenges faced in cyberspace: more information, more sources, more providers, and more clutter. His philosophy was that future-thinking journalists have to think critically about the value they are adding in order to “make them a signal above the noise”.

In a letter applying for the professorship at Boston University, Carr wrote,“I love the current future of journalism we are living through and care desperately about getting my students ready to prosper in this new place.”

Carr was driven to share his passion for the written word. His thriving weekly Media Equation column was the foundation for his teachings, chronicling the ever-changing media sphere. He established himself as a respected and thoughtful cultural and media analyst, and was “an early evangelist” for social media, according to his Times obituary. His weekly column was an especially valuable resource for those working in, or merely fascinated by the evolving media landscape.

As the Times began its experimentation with multimedia journalism, Carr was one of the columnists leading the digital charge. At a time when many reporters were trying to figure out how to incorporate Twitter into their workflow, Carr was granted permission to set up video recording equipment in his basement to create segments for the Times. “I wanted to be blogging and doing these almost daily,” he told Nikki Usher, author of Making News at the New York Times, in 2010. “They don’t want that yet—but the fact that I just [asked to film] videos in my basement, and they said, ‘Okay, Sparky, give it a whirl’ [shows that] they are a lot more prone toward beta and experimentation on the web.”

A brutally demanding old-school journalist who embraced the future, the charming media personality who had more than half a million social media followers, or a mere man looking for truth; however he will be remembered, he left an indelible mark in 21st century journalism.

“I was taught that truth matters, fairness matters, excellence matters. Those values are relevant even as the skills required to prosecute journalism morph to meet a changing media landscape.” David Carr – 1956 – 2015.

Contributing Author:  Thalia Hansen

Editor:  Jana Kotze

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