David Carr,a media reporter for the New York Times, passed away suddenly in the newsroom of The Gray Lady on Thursday night. His death is a shock to those who were fortunate enough to know him personally as well as many people (like myself) who read his work.
I remember first reading one of David’s columns back in 2009 and always found them very good. I heard more about him when he released a book about himself called “Night of the Gun” in which he describes his battles with drug and alcohol addiction.
In 2011 he was featured in a documentary called Page One: Inside the New York Times. It’s currently on Netflix Canada and is well worth a watch. There is one very memorable scene in the film where David Carr is interviewing executives at Vice.com a “new” media website. At one point the CEO of Vice throws an inaccurate shot towards the NY Times, David stops him and basically tears him a new one in a very polite but forceful way. This is an example of a journalist who cares about his paper and his craft.
David was first a journalist before anything else. He and many others like him show the value of professional news organizations even in today’s internet society. In the documentary he is filmed working on a story about several problems with the management culture at the Chicago Tribune. You can see how a real news organization gathers information about issues that may not always be the most exciting but are important nevertheless. His co-worker A.O. Scott in his piece today has a great paragraph which sums things up rather well.
“A warrior for the truth.
I can picture his eyebrows shooting upward at that last sentence. A bit much, maybe. But he regarded the newspaper — and all of its digital, televisual and other cognates — as a big, clanking machine for churning out stories. The only rule was that the stories had to be true.”
At the same time that the importance of news organizations has never been more important, the challenges to those very organizations have never been more numerous. The same day that David Carr has passed away, 1/3 of Yahoo Canada’s editorial section were laid off. In addition Sun News a conservative news network billed as “Fox North” is also shutting down.
Much has been written about the challenges to the traditional media funding model with the rise of the internet. We are able to gather the news quicker and cheaper than ever before, but there is still a need for experienced journalists and news gathering organizations. The need to help analyze these stories and look beyond the ten word soundbyte has never been more apparent. The fact that media organizations that provide a heavily slanted view are running into financial difficulties should not be a surprise to anyone. There is only so much of that sort of “news” an informed public will consume without realizing that there is something missing.
The challenge now is finding a financial model to keep the “true” news organizations around and healthy is more important than ever before.