Greetings reddit: This is David Carr. Here is my proof that I exist and it is me.

As a reporter and columnist with the attention span of a water bug, I have covered old and new media, the Oscars,Kings of Leon, Katrina, Rupert Murdoch, Neil Young, Wikileaks and Ethan Hawke.

My first job in journalism was at weekly in Minneapolis that's gone now and my worst job ever was making jelly beans. I write a column every week for the business section called the Media Equation and frequently contribute to the Sunday Arts and Leisure section. I blog at Media Decoder, spend way too much time on Twitter, and have no understanding of Facebook, probably because I lack friends, or at least the kind I want to send pictures of my dog or children to. I wrote a memoir called The Night of the Gun in which I interviewed and videotaped people from my feckless past. I smoke cigarettes and ride bikes, though never at the same time.

I did not know Aaron Swartz, but like many others, wonder about the values of a culture that chooses to prosecute him for alleged informational crimes while bankers implicated in massive frauds against the public still frolic. Given that I am doing an AMA on reddit and rely on RSS every day, I’m struck by the fact that in some respects, it’s Aaron’s world and I’m just typing into it.

I like to talk about creaky old media, insurgent new media, movies, television, politics, all aspects of pop culture. Ask. Me. Anything. I'll be taking all comers at 2 p.m. EST.

And. We. Are. Live.

And. We. Are. Done. Will stop back later to look around for stuff I didn't get to, but I need to get back to typing on something that will please my betters and keep my creditors, if not redditors, happy.

Comments: 172 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

mrtambourine_man18 karma

Does it bother you how Gawker and other websites simply cut and paste extracts of NYT stories, add a pithy comment, post it and call it 'journalism'?

Is this the future? What happens when the mainstream media outlets go bust?

carr2n16 karma

Gawker and others were all about that, but more and more I see them doing original work, some of which I end up citing. And more and more at our shop, we are putting some sauce on the work of others -- in addition to the original reporting that is fundamental to what we do -- and sending it out into the world.

snapmedown15 karma

What was your reaction to the New York Times' decision to shut down its environmental desk and redistribute the reporters and editors to other desks?

Do you feel this will have a chilling effect at the New York Times for coverage of environmental issues and do you agree with veteran journalist Peter Dykstra that when you 'abolish a standalone beat, it sends a strong message to every career-conscious reporter and editor that chasing environment stories is not a path to advancement'?

carr2n12 karma

We array and re-array reporters all the time. My bosses generally listen very closely for my opinions and then go the other way. I can tell you from my time in this room that energy/environment is a hugely consequential part of what we do. And lots of coverage areas that live btw desks without having one of their own frequently light up the front of the paper or the home page. Our editors up vote environmental stuff all the time.

basedmatik12 karma

I'm a freshman in college right now & journalism is a career that interests me. Is there any advice you can share on being successful in journalism?

carr2n58 karma

You have to make stuff. The tools of journalism are in your hands and no one is going to give a damn about what is on your resume, they want to see what you have made with your own little fingies. Can you use Final Cut Pro? Have you created an Instagram that is about something besides a picture of your cat every time she rolls over? Is HTML 5 a foreign language to you? Is your social media presence dominated by a picture of your beer bong, or is it an RSS of interesting stuff that you add insight to? People who are doing hires will have great visibility into what you can actually do, what you care about and how you can express on any number of platforms.

DrewskiG12 karma

Your favorite writers block cure?

carr2n38 karma


bkries12 karma

Has your thinking on Vice at all evolved?

Video for those who didn't see Page One: YouTube. Also, read this column.

carr2n17 karma

My daughter now works there. (if you haven't seen her vid on these little organisms that can survive in space First Animal to Survive in Space - YouTube that blew up large thanks to reddit in part, you should) As I have told her and as I will tell you, there is a constant battle at Vice between hype and performance. they are part of a new, post-agency world, going direct with consumers. Sometime their stuff is amazing and sometimes it is a mess. I'm glad they exist and am looking forward to seeing how big of deal they are in the end.

TLinden3111 karma

What are your opinions on the New York Times' paywall?

carr2n22 karma

Win. All of the theologists of free said that we would disappear from the informational ecosystem and that did not end up to be true. Because it is a meter, because it is leaky -- which is really a feature, not a flaw -- and because social media links ride free, we've gotten serious money from people who want the convenience and access, and still maintained visibility.

LTVOLT11 karma

Would you consider the New York Times to be fair and honest with its approach to politics? Is there an equal amount of representation for both sides of the political spectrum or do you see an agenda?

carr2n12 karma

I'm not a very good judge of this. We've done a good job of holding the president to account for using the espionage act to go after whistle blowers, Ex-Officer Is First From C.I.A. to Face Prison for a Leak something I care a lot about, but my email is full of people who think we are in the tank for him. Ultimately, the audience has to judge whether we are biased, or as sometimes happens, over-correcting for bias.

kidsneakers10 karma

Please tell an awesome story about your time at Washington City Paper.

carr2n15 karma

My end of the office there was called Cape Fear in part because no one could understand what I was talking about. I tend to be, um, a somewhat idiosyncratic communicator in person. One time Neil Drumming, who has an amazing first movie coming out The End Is Near, and My Crew Is Sleepy - Neil Drumming - The Atlantic worked for me at the time and I brought him in for a chat. When he left my office, people asked what we had talked about, he said, "I either got fired or got a big raise, I couldn't tell which."

ij_reilly8 karma

Yes! Ideally something about Ta-Nehisi Coates.

carr2n24 karma

T is remarkable. No one else thinks like him. He was just a blunt spoken, blunt smoking young man back in those days, but he turned into this amazing thinker and writer. Great human and now a really big deal, was canned from Philly Weekly, Village Voice and Time, all because his editors wanted him to be a certain kind of Black Writer, or what white people think a writer who happens to be black should sound like. He ain't with that. He contains multitudes and no one is more fun to talk journalism with. I love reading him, but I am most impressed by the community he has created at his ability to create a community around his work Ta-Nehisi Coates - Authors - The Atlantic that is like him. Smart, civil, remarkably wide ranging and full of stuff I had never thought of. Or old stuff I now think about in old ways. A great human, but don't get him started about the Civil War. The human sleeper hold when it comes to that stuff. He won't stop.

cssblondie9 karma

Big fan. Thanks for this.

Know a little of your history re: drugs and such, and that you've kicked and are now clean/sober.

Is it difficult being a sober journalist, given the endless string of parties, potential for drugs and constant gladhanding by big-media companies? I'd imagine you're bombarded often by the potential for temptation.

carr2n30 karma

I watched the Globes last night, an event that I used to cover, and watched people enjoy some adult beverages. I am very pro-alcohol, but I just tend to end up in handcuffs when I used. I have more fun -- way more fun -- when I don't drink or do drugs. In the times I have used, it was never baked into my work life. If I am going to really go there, it ain't going to be with some flacks for a big magazine company. That said, I was looking at my best clips lately and you can't really tell which were written drunk or sober. There is no correlation. The muse comes when it does and it can't be beckoned by a six-pack or something you stick up your nose.

thecuriouskat7 karma

Hey David,

Two questions:

  • As a fledgling journalist, I'm constantly having conversations about breaking into the field during these "changing" times — the internet makes reporting today way different from reporting decades ago. Say you graduated from college this past year and were trying to break into the journalism field. Do you think this hypothetical career trajectory would be the same as your actual one? Not exactly comparable, but I'm interested in hearing how media today could've affected or changed your development as a journalist.

  • Lena Dunham's HBO show "Girls." What do you think of it? There's lots of fodder on how it's not diverse — primarily a show about a bunch of "entitled white girls." Dunham's been criticized for this, and as a result, vowed to bring diversity to her set. Cue the entrance of Donald Glover in season two. Is that tokenism? General thoughts?


(Edit: formatting)

carr2n14 karma

Right now, being a reporter is a golden age. There may be a lack of business models to back it up, but having AKTOCA on -- All Known Thought One Click Away -- on my desktop, tablet or phone makes it an immensely deeper, richer exercise than it used to be.

And the velocity of change is only increasing. Right now, I can talk to my phone and tablets and it knows what I am saying. What happens when it knows what my sources are saying and renders real-time transcripts? We are getting very close. And what happens when speech becomes text on the Web. One of the barriers to entry has been that you have to type what you are thinking to blog about that. What happens when that barrier goes away? Content is going to further explode, and I can't figure out if that is good or bad for those of us who are in the Signal vs. Noise business.

I met Lena Dunham when she brought Tiny Furniture to SxSW and knew right away she would end up as a big deal. I wrote one of what would end up being many stories about her. Young Filmmaker’s Search for Her Worth Is Rewarded

We're now kinda friends, so I don't write about her anymore, but I have never understood all the hate that is being directed at her. Her TV show is one show that I am keenly interested in seeing where it goes. It has gotten bigger as time goes by. I initially thought it was about girls my daughters age -- which made watching it weird, btw -- struggling to figure out how to be adults, but I think it is more universal than that, in a way, it is about me, you and everyone we know. Issues of loyalty, of what a sexual exchange means, but conflating the professional and the personal, are all conflicts that endures after you grow up.

Did I think Donald Glover was a token? Mayhaps. But she is a young artist trying to make her way and she is going to bump into some things along the way.

People love to ankle bite her because she grew up well-situated, but nobody gave her a tv show for that. Nobody convinced Judd Apatow to co-produce because of who her parents were and HBO did not pick up Girls for a second season because she is wired. She's not, really. She is really talented and working her way toward making a show that people are going to talk about for years to come. Some to praise it and some to trash it.

dosnaya6 karma

What's it like sharing a name with an NFL player?

carr2n18 karma

One time I was at Giants stadium and they said, "Now entering the game at quarterback ... David Carr!" I jumped up and ran down toward the field, but the ushers stopped me.

aarko6 karma

Can you describe from your vantage point the flow of money toward writing and content at major news organizations? More to the point, how does, say, the NYT's investment in quantity and quality of journalists compare with, say, BuzzFeed's?

Is there a trend we can pull from this?

carr2n4 karma

We are living in a time when more and more news organization are turning toward their audiences and looking for money. Buzzfeed, which I read and enjoy, is in a building phase and will do their best to build out quickly. Think it is amazing to think that less than a year after Ben Smith went and started turning it into a news org, the New York Times partnered with them on the elections. It's freaky when you think about it. It used to take five years and $50 million to build out a news brand, Arianna did it in far less time than that and now Buzzfeed seemed to do it in no time.

At some point, all news orgs are going to bump up against the laws of economics. Even the Atlantic Media co. which has been in the vanguard of free and just launched Quartz, is starting to look at some kind of a paywall for some kind of products. The newsonomics of the digital-only paywall parade » Nieman Journalism Lab And I think it will be really important to watch what happens with Andrew Sullivan, who I recently talked to about his decision to return to his indie roots. Andrew Sullivan on New Media's New Darwinism - Smart boy with a ferocious following. If anybody will figure out how much a single brand can expect from readers, it will probably be him.

And the other thing is that new revenue models are developing. Brian Lam, former Giz guy, set up shop at the WireCutter and a lot of his money is not coming directly from ads or readers, but from the referral business with Amazon. Buffeted by the Web, but Now Riding It

completeunknown6 karma

Considering the magnitude to which media outlets shape public opinion, has there ever been a piece that you have written in the past or present that has appeared legitimate at the time only for you to realize that it was nothing more than yellow journalism later? Do you think poor journalism is shaping the debate on gun control?

carr2n5 karma

I have written that Dave Letterman was over, that big media was dead and that Rupert Murdoch was going to ruin the Wall Street Journal. Known of those things turned out to be true. The great thing about being a columnist is that you get to say what you think, which is amazing, unless you turn out to be wrong. I don't paint in yellow much in print. I like people to know that I am coming and want they to have a chance to respond.

michelledeidre6 karma

What is the best piece of writing/journalistic advice you've ever received?

carr2n19 karma

Keep typing until it turns into writing.

ernielikesdewars4 karma

Thanks for doing this David!

In the documentary "Page One," you adamantly defend the future of the newspaper. Has your opinion changed since the filming of the documentary? Also, Was there ever a time when you felt that you were in over your head when reporting on a story?

carr2n8 karma

I am Irish and frantically loyal to "my people", whoever that ends up being. My defense is a reflex, but it is also founded on the belief that the fundamentals that underlie our business are solid. The success of the meter was kind of an acid test. We think we are valuable, but then, we get to feed our families with what we do, but what do readers think? That commercial referendum came up well for us. Not that things aren't scary. The cratering of the economics of web advertising are scary for everybody.

And stories I felt i was over my head? I did a big heave on the Tribune Company and their management that seemed to be beyond my ken, but turned out well. At Flagging Tribune, Tales of a Bankrupt Culture

More recently, issues came up about our new CEO, Mark Thompson, and his tenure at the BBC. You don't want your first conversation with your new, ultimate boss to be about whether he was involved in killing a story about pedophilia perpetrated by a former talent, but he was forthright and we got through it. But on the way up to his office, I thought, well, shouldn't somebody smarter and better than me be on a story that is this important? It turned out OK, in part because I had the support of my bosses and in part because Mark Thompson knew myself and my fellow reporter Christine Haughney were only doing our jobs.

SteroidalFish24 karma

What's the strangest story you've ever had to cover?

carr2n5 karma

Too many to count. This one is top of mind. An Author Indulges His Inner Twain John Wray, a very talented novelist and a not very talented raft maker decided to construct a vessel to go down the Mississippi as part of his book tour. It was a weird, nice-looking thing, but not very seaworthy or maneuverable. The river is full of giant tug boats and you have to get out of the way. When we did finally make it safely to shore, there were mosquitoes the size of birds, heavy gauge fireworks, and some snuffling armadillos, who are like really ugly raccoons. I know that sounds like some bad acid trip, but there was nothing stronger on shore than brown liquor, but that was enough to turn it into a bit of a Lord of the Flies wrangle. Let's just say that my head and my rental car did not come back in good shape, although the tour and the story worked out. And if you haven't read Lowboy, Off His Meds, on the Uptown B his latest book, you should put it at the top of the pile. The guys is scary good.

Calamity_Payne3 karma

What is your take on the British press hacking scandal? Do you think it is a serious concern that N.O.T.W journalists hacked the answerphones of celebrities or do you believe it has been blown out of proportion by the Government in an attempt to distract the public from their mismanagement of the economic crisis and there general dickhead attitudes to the majority of the country. Or other haha.

carr2n5 karma

I think of News Corporation as very talented entertainment and media organization that will use whatever sort of leverage that they can. They are like a pirate ship that comes to whatever port they are in, surveys the landscape and then gets to work. In the instance of the UK, they changed the game and used the leverage of information to keep government at bay and fearful. It never would have changed without the work of Nick Davies and the Guardian, Nick Davies | The Guardian along with the important work that my colleagues Don Van Natta, Jo Becker and Graham Bowley did. Tabloid Hack Attack on Royals, and Beyond Remember that NOTW did not just hack celebrities -- a murder vic, families of soldiers who had died -- and while I don't want to go all Jodie Foster on the rights of celebrities Parsing What Jodie Foster Did (and Didn't) Say -, I do think that they are not just fodder to be fed into the wood chipper.

I_Am_Marilyn3 karma

What are your favorite sources to get news from?

carr2n11 karma

imaliving on the Twitter when it comes to news. A human-enabled RSS feed from a group of people I respect, compete with or care about. Plus, it surfaces things I would never, ever read. That said, I still get both NYT and WSJ at home, plopping as artifact on my doorstep in the morning. I do that because I need and want somebody to create a hierarchy of what happened the day before. If my info-diet is all fire-hose and no curation, I end up being a person who knows a little about a lot of little things.

Tom_Z3 karma

What do you think about CBS and CNET removing the Dish "Hopper" from winning their "Best of CES" award and banning the product from being reviewed?

Do you think CNET will ever be able to recover from the fallout?

carr2n6 karma

It's not CNET that is imperiled, but CBS. Very ugly business. I completely understand why the find "Hopper" so threatening -- it is a dagger right to the heart of their business -- but if that kind of commercial censorship occurred at our shop, people would freak out. New brands have to compete for top talent and voices and if CBS turns out to be an owner -- odd, given their legacy -- that can't keep its business and journalistic interests straight, no one is going to want to work there.

Imoubayed3 karma

Hey David,

Love reading your articles and watching sweet spot. It's one thing to have a strong writers voice but to be on camera is I can imagine a different experience. How was that transition to doing videos with A.O.? Regrets?

carr2n5 karma

Working on those Sweet Spot The Sweet Spot: Nov. 16 - videos with Tony is one of the great pleasures of my professional life. I don't want to make it sound like I am making a Anne Hathaway-esqe speech about him Anne Hathaway wins Golden Globe - YouTube but he is as smart and generous a colleague as I have ever had. That said, I don't think we have it figured out. Before I started doing them, I asked myself, 'What would make me watch a Web video of two white guys at a table talking for eight minutes?" And my answer was, "Nothing." But I don't want to get involved in something shorter because there's no content really being conveyed. We have dropped the time down to more like five minutes, put in some interstitial vid, and worked to keep tempo up, but still feels like we are trying to figure it out. I had some success with Oscar videos in the past, so it's not like people won't tune in. I just have to figure out how to make it compellign when I am not interviewing Kate Winslet or Penelope Cruz. The Carpetbagger: SAG Awards - - YouTube

Interestingly_Enough3 karma

Love your work and appreciate your commitment to journalism. I loved you in Page One.

How did you find the strength to withstand withdrawal and leave your addiction behind?

When did you know you wanted to be a journalist? Was it a childhood dream or did it come to you later in life?

If you could change one thing about today's media as a whole, what would it be?

carr2n12 karma

I was an insomniac as a kid and we had a bunch of crappy books in the basement. I read most of them, stuffing my head with words. And at a certain point, they words started coming back out. If you want to write, you have to read.

SuttonWho2 karma

David, thanks for doing this AMA. I also enjoy the slap of the NYT and WSJ on my doorstep.

Why do you think even politically interested Americans have become so narrow in their political reading/listenership/viewing? There's the group who'll read the NYT op-ed pages, listen to NPR, watch MSNBC's evening lineup. And the group who'll read the WSJ op-ed pages, listen to Limbaugh, watch Fox's evening lineup.

Both sides have become like jurors who only listen when the prosecutor speaks, then stick their fingers in their ears when the defense attorney speaks.

Is this all about reputational bias? Are folks fearful their colleagues/acquaintances will shriek if they discover one among them has (gasp!) an actual interest in learning about the other side's beliefs?

carr2n8 karma

I'm really worried that we are going to end up in our own verticals of information. It is Eli Pariser's Filter Bubble [EThe Filter Bubble writ large. I am always struck by the fact if I write something vaguely critical of Jon Stewart, I get emails written in language that makes even me blush, or if I get linked on Drudge, a whole hoard of people come over the hill trying to fill me with ack-ack. No one really wants to talk, no one is really asking a question, they are just telling me what a worthless idiot I am before moving on to the next drive-by.

NorbitGorbit2 karma

how segregated are the different departments at NYT? could you hang out with khoi vinh back when he worked on the design?

carr2n5 karma

Khoi Vinh is a dark overlord and king of all that is magic and beyond my ken, so he never spent a great need to spend time with the likes of me. Then again, I have made nice with some of the propeller heads that live in the belfry here and come up with all kinds of amazing stuff, like Cascade, which is an amazing way to watch how stuff blows up on Twitter. [nytlabs] Project Cascade

rewrewsuh2 karma

what is your opinion of the newyorker? favorite sports team? sports team you love to hate? 100 duck sized horses, or a horse sized duck? what story that you did interested you most during your career thus far? best part of the job? worst part of the job? approximate salary?

carr2n22 karma

The New Yorker is never as good as it once was, right? Except I think it is amazing. Their humor still sucks, they have yet to figure out beltway politics, but week-in, week-out, they take my breath away. Long and glorious and remarkable, with the story they just did about the magician-pickpocket unfurled in such unexpected ways. Adam Green: The Spectacular Thefts of Apollo Robbins, Pickpocket : The New Yorker Route Minnesota Twins, and sadly, Jets. Hate Yankees. And Patriots, although I bet on them last weekend and was torn as I watched them smoke Houston. in re, ducks and horses. I would rather pretend to fight both. I would bring a long mallet, clonk the big duck to show him who was boss and then mount -- go ahead, insert whatever joke you like -- the horse-sized duck and slay the duck-sized horses. How? They could only go after the duck's tough, webby feet while I made like a polo player on their gang. The duck would probably peck my eyes out from jump, but a boy can dream.

The story I cared most about, I didn't write. A woman came to me when I was editor of the Washington City Paper and said that she had been gunstalked by this maniac for years and the police would not do anything about it. My So-Called Stalker: Negotiations with fear, obsession, and the D.C. police - Washington City Paper We had to talk a lot before publication, because I didn't know what this guy would do. Suffice to say it had a happy ended.

Best part of my career is that it doesn't involve actual work. The worst part is that the non-work now never stops. You never push the button and walk away. There is always more to promote, read, and publish.

Salary. More than a teacher, less than a successful stripper. Working at NYT is not the highest paying job I have ever had, but pretty sure it's the coolest. and with the addition of a book The Night of the Gun: A reporter investigates the darkest story of his life. His own.: David Carr: 9781416541530: Books I've been able to get three kids through college -- well, still one to go -- travel widely and drive a car that works. I've never really given a rip about money.

cool_beansncream-1 karma

Carrie Bradshaw?

carr2n1 karma

Have never understood the show -- blow's a whistle I can't here -- or the appeal of the characters. SATC sees full of a certain type of women. Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party | Video | Saturday Night Live | NBC and I'm just talking about Ms. Bradshaw's character. I've never met her and sure is fine person to meet at a party or elsewhere.