The Journalists’ Bard

by mediachinwag

It’s a grand, grand caper. You get to leave, go talk to strangers, ask them anything, come back, type up their stories, edit the tape. That’s not gonna retire your loans as quickly as it should, and it’s not going to turn you into a person who’s worried about what kind of car they should buy, but that’s kind of as it should be. I mean, it beats working.

—David Carr (1956-2015)

That’s from David Carr’s commencement address in 2014 at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism, a paean to his profession that manages to be sentimental and hard-boiled at the same time. As the Media Equation columnist and culture writer for the New York Times, Carr captured the zeitgeist of a world turned upside down by the Internet better than anyone.

“David was a bard for journalists because he figured out how to connect our past with our present,” David Leonhardt wrote in an appreciation in the Times. “He venerated old-fashioned reporting and yet described today as a ‘golden age’ for journalists.”

Carr collapsed in the Times’ newsroom and later died of complications from lung cancer last February, at age 58. He lives on; for example, here in the video of his Berkeley commencement address, as well as in Page One, Andrew Rossi’s great 2011 documentary about the New York Times struggling with the transformation of the news business.

—Scott MacLeod