David Carr’s death and the changing face of journalism

Internaz / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

by Ashley Adams–

The New York Times — and journalism as an institution — lost one of the greats when David Carr passed away yesterday evening. There’s been an incredible outpouring of grief for his passing, as well a tremendous record of his best work, shared by his colleagues, former interview subjects and admirers on Twitter. The Times has also posted a very nice obituary (complete with links to more of his work. It’s an excellent place to start if this sad occasion also serves as your introduction to his writing).

I read his autobiography, The Night of the Gun, the summer before I started high school. For me, his wonderful, sharp, searing prose was an introduction a very different, very personal kind of journalism. It expanded my perceptions about what journalism could be and do and excited me about the possibility of one day taking part in the profession.

Despite the famed instance above where Carr took Vice down a peg or two (or eight) in the Times-centric documentary Page One — also essential viewing — Carr is being remembered as man who vocally embraced the modernization of journalism. As journalism students, we’ll soon find ourselves as the forefront of the debate about what new and innovative media means for journalism. I hope that we choose to embrace it the way that Carr did, to keep in mind that journalism can be so much more than words on a page or voice over run-of-the-mill B-roll. Of course, that doesn’t mean blindly implementing every story-telling trend that comes our way, but I think that we — the generation touted as never knowing a world without the internet or a computer in every home — will take it upon ourselves thoughtfully evaluate new techniques and incorporating the best ones into new and exciting ways to tell peoples’ stories.

As many people have pointed out, between Jon Stewart’s announcement that he’s stepping down from The Daily Show, the still-unfolding Brian Williams scandal, and the deaths of David Carr and CBS correspondent Bob Simon, it’s been a tough time for journalism. But perhaps there’s no better time to embrace the changing face of journalism, not just in terms of technology and modernization, but also in the way we tell stories and who we tell those stories about. There’s a lot to be said about the fact that all the stories making waves about journalism right now concern white, middle-aged men — and it’s probably because as a whole, journalism is a profession shaped by that profile. As student-journalists about to (hopefully) enter the world of professional journalism, I hope we all remember that everyone’s story and everyone’s side is with telling — and that anyone with talent and drive should get a shot to tell it.