This past Monday afternoon, the College of Communication hosted a special lecture by David Carr, who spoke to students and professors about the future of journalism.
Carr, a critically acclaimed reporter-author-tweeter extraordinaire, is best known for his Media Equation column for the Monday Business section of the New York Times, which explores all aspects of media including television, radio, print, and film. He is also a very active presence on Twitter, offering a near-constant stream of pop culture quips mixed with current events.
Speaking to a room full of budding journalists, Carr geared the lecture toward the ever-changing nature of the news industry. He began by denying the notion of a decline in the field of journalism and delving into the evolution of the Internet and its effect on the media.
Carr then presented his core idea that the advent of the Internet saw the transfer of power to the audience, thereby making the public “nodes of production” rather than mindless consumers. This concept carried through the entirety of the lecture as he touched on subjects such as profitability versus efficiency (“You can’t push a product toward the consumer. They have to pull”), selective marketing (“You are programming your own universe”), and the paradox of choice (“Too many choices can make your head explode!”).
Drawing from decades of experience, Carr artfully crafted a presentation full of advice, history, and information for the up-and-coming generation of journalists. He imbued the room with an anticipatory buzz, as if those in attendance were standing at the precipice of the future.
In preparation for what is to come, Carr placed emphasis on the notion of a “jack of all trades,” a person who has multiple skills. He encouraged the audience to use this time in school to become proficient in many media platforms, saying that employers of various fields (not just journalism) are becoming more demanding. “Eat your Wheaties,” Carr implored, adding that the rapid pace of the world can be “exhausting.”
Despite the herculean task of reporting the news quickly and accurately, Carr remained optimistic. “We are living in an age where the web is a self-cleaning oven” he said, adding that no matter what, the truth inevitably comes out.
Following the presentation, a brief question and answer period allowed students and professors alike to challenge many of Carr’s broader statements regarding targeted marketing. He responded by predicting a pushback against media consumption. Elaborating on his idea of the “paradox of choice,” he forecasted a time when the public will become so overrun with information that they will unplug themselves, leading to a rebirth in longform reporting.
Until that time comes, Carr promised to remain a prominent voice in digital news media, saying, “If news is important, it will find me.” And rest assured, he will inform the rest of us.