Perhaps best known for his role in Page One, a documentary about the New York Times, journalist David Carr has spent the past 25 years investigating the intersections of media and business, culture, and government. A New York Times columnist since 2002, Carr knows a thing or two about the changing face of journalism—and has predictions on where it’s headed.
He shared those thoughts with a room of aspiring and current journalists in UT’s Belo Center for New Media on Wednesday. Carr was on campus to present the 2012 Mary Alice Davis Distinguished Lecture in Journalism, titled “Hitting the Reset Button,” in which he claimed the old guard of journalism is changing.
“Can you imagine trying to explain to someone the newspaper?” Carr asked the audience. “Think of 2o years from now. ‘Used to take ‘em and just wing ‘em in people’s yards. And that’s how we got the news!’”
According to Carr, his chair no longer vibrates at 10 p.m. when the printing press starts because the New York Times offices have moved. People can easily aggregate stories because of the quick turnaround time online. Writers rarely talk to each another in the newsroom because everyone has a computer.
“No one has whiskey in their desk anymore, and few people still smoke,” Carr said.
Though his speech was peppered with quick lines and biting jokes, Carr made it clear that he believes journalism will make the transition from print to digital. And, with almost 400,000 Twitter followers, Carr has made the transition himself rather smoothly.
“Nearly a year in, I’ve come to understand that the real value of this service is listening to a wired collective voice,” he said in Page One. “The media was not the message. The messages are the media.”
Sipping on a cup of Jo’s iced coffee and scrolling through his Twitter feed on an iPad, Carr explained to the audience that Mary Alice Davis—a Texas writer who championed the role of journalism in democracy—probably wouldn’t have approved of his affinity for pop culture.
“She wrote a column known for its feistiness and deadbeat accuracy,” Carr said. “I work a column known for its feistiness.”
Carr also discussed pay walls, the presidential election, the growing uselessness of newsrooms, and the future of the New York Times.
His final conclusion: journalism is changing because we are, but that change doesn’t really matter.While newspapers may print fewer copies, he said, that won’t stop the news and the New York Times from surviving the transition.
“Good information, quickly and memorably rendered, never goes out of style,” Carr said.
Photo by Pu Ying Huang of the Daily Texan.