5 David Carr Must-Reads That Illustrate Why He's So Deserving Of A 'New York Times' Namesake Fellowship
On Monday, The New York Times announced that it's launching a fellowship to honor David Carr, a longtime columnist for the paper who died in February after collapsing in the Times newsroom. Carr was well-known for his love of merging technology and new media with his commitment to deeply-reported, investigated stories. Thus, the fellowship will focus on "the intersection of technology, media, and culture." Carr is remembered as a great journalist and a fabulous mentor. Some of his best articles and books are must-reads not only within the journalism community, but also for anyone who loves great stories.
The Times said that it will start accepting applications for the two-year training program, which is aimed at young journalists with three years of experience on Monday. Executive editor of the Times Dean Baquet said that the paper needed a "permanent, lasting way to honor David." Baquet also said that the Times is looking for "people who maybe have an unusual background. David Carr was a recovering drug addict who came to us from the alternative news media world. That’s very unusual for The New York Times."
Carr's unusual background made his interests a little unusual, too. He wrote about Philip Seymour Hoffman's overdose, his own struggles with addiction, what Jon Stewart means for media, and the complications of tweeting about controversy. Here are five of Carr's great writings, which will help you get a sense of just why a fellowship in honor of his legacy makes perfect sense.
This is actually the syllabus for a course, called Press Play, that Carr taught at Boston University last fall. Carr published the syllabus on Medium, a collaborative long-form journalism and multimedia website. The syllabus reads like an ode to new journalism, but it's also just got some inspirational quirks and funny, professor-like threats to do the reading. Carr's thoughts on raising your hand in class, for example, are brilliant:
Don’t raise your hand in class. This isn’t Montessori, I expect people to speak up when they like, but don’t speak over anyone. Respect the opinions of others.
And Carr said that he didn't want to hear excuses, even if they were presented in a creative format:
Excuses: Don’t make them — they won’t work. Stories are supposed to be on the page, and while a spoken-word performance might explain everything, it will excuse nothing.
The Night of the Gun
An excerpt from Carr's memoir was published in the Times in 2008. In it, Carr describes, with frightening detail, what he felt when he was in the grip of his drug addiction. The first paragraph of the excerpt speaks for itself:
Where does a junkie’s time go? Mostly in 15-minute increments, like a bug-eyed Tarzan, swinging from hit to hit. For months on end in 1988, I sat inside a house in north Minneapolis, doing coke and listening to Tracy Chapman’s 'Fast Car' and finding my own pathetic resonance in the lyrics. 'Any place is better,' she sang. 'Starting from zero, got nothing to lose.'
His Columns From The Media Equation
The Media Equation was a Pulitzer-Prize-finalist column Carr wrote for the Times about the intersection of media and technology. It's interesting and funny, and the effects of technology that Carr discusses often apply to more than just media. The Times recommends "Twitter Is All in Good Fun, Until It Isn't," or "Kings of Their Crafts, but on Divergent Paths," which is about Jon Stewart and Brian Williams.
"At Flagging Tribune, Tales of a Bankrupt Culture"
Vanity Fair described this piece as Carr's "opus." The piece, from 2010, is an investigative look into the corporate takeover and then degradation of the Tribune Company. In the first four paragraphs, Carr quotes two employees of the company as saying that the new head executive, Randy Michaels, met them at a bar and said “Watch this." He then allegedly offered the waitress $100 to show him her breasts. Needless to say, Carr didn't tiptoe around the new billionaires controlling papers like The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times.
"Abramson’s Exit At The Times Puts Tensions on Display"
A journalist actually wrote a scathing accusation against the Times leadership — the paper he worked for — in the Times itself and didn't lose his job. After Jill Abramson was fired from her position as executive editor and accusations of sexism ensued, Carr did the opposite of what most brands would tell their employees to do, which would be to remain quiet. Instead, he wrote this column, which revealed the inner workings of the scandal and Abramson's firing. It was a brave and risky move, but it made Carr's commitment to good journalism and transparency abundantly clear. Carr described some heavy things he'd seen at the paper, but said that Abramson's firing was one of the most brutal:
I have witnessed some fraught moments at The New York Times. Jayson Blair was a friend of mine. I watched Howell Raines fly into a mountain from a very close distance. I saw the newspaper almost tip over when the print business plunged and the company had to borrow money at exorbitant rates from a Mexican billionaire.
But none of that was as surreal as what happened last week. When the Times’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., stood up at a hastily called meeting in the soaring open newsroom where we usually gather to celebrate the Pulitzers and said that Jill was out, we all just looked at one another. How did our workplace suddenly become a particularly bloody episode of Game of Thrones?
It is one thing to gossip or complain about your boss, but quite another to watch her head get chopped off in the cold light of day. The lack of decorum was stunning.