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New York Times columnist David Carr visits Ohio State, gives advice to budding journalists

Andrew Holleran / Photo editor


In a time when journalism’s future is largely unknown, Ohio State students had a rare opportunity to hear insights from a writer with one of the industry’s most prominent news outlets.

The New York Times media columnist David Carr visited OSU Friday to talk about his experiences in journalism and to offer advice to students pursuing careers in the field.

Carr gave a Q-and-A-formatted lecture to roughly 100 people Friday afternoon in OSU’s Journalism Building, where he spoke on a range of topics including social media, current events and the future of journalism.

As more people turn to the Internet for news, Carr said one problem he sees for the industry’s future is the increased number of publishing opportunities now available with online content. He said while the internet “democratizes” journalism, newspapers have been built around a limited amount of premium space for advertising and editorial content.

“There are no steady jobs for you, you’re not graduating into the life that newspapers catered for,” Carr said. “Again and again, the conveyor belt has broken down and then once you graduate, there’s not a monopoly of information so, in that sense, it’s a very existential sort of crisis.”

However, Carr said there is still value in print newspapers.

“I want a hierarchy of information about what happened,” Carr said. “The web just goes zooming by me all day long – I like that there’s a resting point, a quiet point.”

Carr touched on the media’s portrayal of journalism, speaking about television shows such as “The Newsroom” and “House of Cards.” He said while the shows offer some accurate depictions of the industry, other aspects irritate him.

“Every time on ‘The Newsroom’ somebody does something good, everybody else in the newsroom stands there and claps like a seal,” Carr said. “I hate that. We’re not clappers, we don’t do that. It’s like, ‘Hey, good story’ – that’s it, that’s what you get.”

Many journalism students were familiar with Carr from the 2011 documentary, “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” which gives viewers a glimpse behind the company’s curtains in a time when the media industry is rapidly transforming.

“I’ve shown ‘Page One’ in every class that I have because The New York Times does stand alone at this point in terms of what it does and how it does it,” said Nicole Kraft, an assistant journalism professor at OSU. “I think that, in that movie, David really represented the new face of journalism.”

Carr said The New York Times has been making big business changes to facilitate future growth.

“We just announced that the International Herald Tribune is going to go away,” Carr said. “There’s sort of a last-man-standing business in international affairs … We think there’s a big, strong business interest for us and part of the reason that we’re going to let go, I’m just guessing … is we want NYT to stand for something globally.”

Last week it was announced that the International Herald Tribune, a Paris-based newspaper owned by the New York Times Company, changed its name to the International New York Times in order to “grow the number of New York Times subscribers outside of the United States,” according to New York Times Company CEO Mark Thompson. 

As an individual, Carr warned audience members to be wary of what they post on social media sites such as Twitter.

“I have a few tweets that I wish I could take back, I’ll tell you that,” Carr said. “Be careful – you’ve got to pause over that button and read that tweet with your boss’s eyes.”

Carr said The New York Times has no written policy on Twitter usage, but it’s important to think of how a personal post can reflect on a company’s image.

Chuck Nelson, a web producer for The Columbus Dispatch, said he was surprised to hear that The New York Times has no written policies concerning Twitter but said The Columbus Dispatch does not either.

“It’s very tough to take some of these new tools and very quickly evaluate what you should and shouldn’t be doing with it,” Nelson said.

Nelson said The Columbus Dispatch tried a year ago to bring Carr to its newsroom but was unsuccessful.

Kraft helped to arrange for Carr to visit OSU and said she had heard from many people that getting Carr as a guest was a difficult task.

“When I asked him about it, he said that he covers media, so because he covers media, for the most part he doesn’t come and speak to media in that venue,” Kraft said.

However, even after airline delays caused his first scheduled lecture to be canceled, Carr was committed to rescheduling promptly.

“I think his commitment really is to this idea of the young voice and the young generation, the generation that is coming up behind him that still has a passion for journalism,” Kraft said.

Carr started his morning with breakfast at Sloopy’s Diner in the Ohio Union, where he met with nine journalism students. He then spoke with members of The Lantern staff and two journalism classes before his lecture.

The talk was brought to OSU through the school’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and served as part of the School of Communication’s William D. Stewart Lecture Series. This series is named after ABC News correspondent William Stewart, who was killed in 1979 while covering the Civil War in Nicaragua. The event was rescheduled from Feb. 15.

The School of Communication spent $2,500 of the Stewart Memorial Fund to bring Carr to OSU, not including flight and hotel accommodations, which the School of Communication also paid for.

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