Photo by Wasim Ahmad/Stony Brook University School of Journalism
In what is quickly becoming the worst month for media ever, the New York Time’s David Carr has passed away at the age of 58. Tragically, the enigmatic journalist collapsed in the newsroom last night, leaving behind his wife, three children, and a vast number of devoted readers and fans.
If you needed reminding just how bad February of 2015 has been (and we’re only 13 days into the month as of time of publishing), here’s what has gone down so far:
1. Andrew Sullivan retires from professional blogging
The announcement that the Dish was closing down technically came on January 28th, but Sullivan and his team of bloggers officially stopped posting on February 6th. Whatever your thoughts about Sullivan personally are, there’s no denying his enormous contribution to independent media media. Here’s what I wrote about it:
In virtually every sense of the word, Sullivan’s experiment was a success. He raised almost $1 million in his first year, and brought in over 30,000 paying subscribers. It is difficult to stress how impressive this is (take it from us), and should independent media survive over the next 10 years, Sullivan should take a huge amount of credit for it. He truly has been an inspiration for anyone committed to not selling their souls for clicks, and hopefully the next generation of indies can take over where he left off.
It isn’t clear that there is a next generation of indies ready to take over, so Sullivan has left a giant hole that could well remain should the Buzzfeeds and Mic.coms continue to spread their insidious ‘articles’ unchecked.
2. Brian Williams gets caught lying about war experiences, suspended from NBC
This was huge news and a big blow to the notion that we can trust the nation’s major news anchors to tell the truth. Brian Williams was caught making stuff up about getting shot in a helicopter ride during the Iraq war, resulting in his forced leave of absence for the next 6 months.
The corporate news media (Murdoch press aside) is usually guilty of not reporting on important topics, but rarely lying about events that didn’t happen. They parroted Bush Administration talking points about the Iraq war, but they didn’t invent mythical helicopter shootings. Not good.
3. Jon Stewart leaves The Daily Show
There’s not much that can be said here. If you don’t understand how important Jon Stewart has been to America’s collective sanity over the past 16 years, you are for lack of a better word, an idiot.
4. CBS “60 Minute” correspondent Bob Simon dies in a car crash
Simon’s five-decade career took him through most major overseas conflicts spanning from the late 1960s to the present. He joined CBS News in 1967 as a New York-based reporter and assignment editor, covering campus unrest and inner city riots. Simon also worked in CBS News’ Tel Aviv bureau from 1977-81, and worked in Washington D.C. as the network’s State Department correspondent.
But Simon’s career in war reporting was extensive, beginning in Vietnam. While based in Saigon from 1971-72, his reports on the war — and particularly the Hanoi 1972 spring offensive — won an Overseas Press Club award award for the Best Radio Spot News for coverage of the end of the conflict. Simon was there for the end of the conflict and was aboard one of the last helicopters out of Saigon in 1975.
He also reported on the violence in Northern Ireland in from 1969-71 and also from war zones in Portugal, Cyprus, the Falkland Islands, the Persian Gulf, Yugoslavia and American military actions in Grenada, Somalia and Haiti.
5. The New York Time’s David Carr dies
Carr’s untimely death feels like a particularly cruel reminder of just how close the media in America is to becoming a meaningless vacuum of banality. Carr was one of the few truly original voices around, an old school, ball buster who took shit from no one and wrote with rare talent and insight. The New York Times had the following to say about their esteemed colleague:
Mr. Carr wrote about cultural subjects for The Times; he initiated the feature known as The Carpetbagger, a regular report on the news and nonsense from the red carpet during awards season. He championed offbeat movies like “Juno,” with Ellen Page, and he interviewed stars both enduring and evanescent — Woody Harrelson, Neil Young, Michael Cera.
More recently, however, he was best known for The Media Equation, a Monday column in The Times that analyzed news and developments in publishing, television, social media — for which he was an early evangelist — and other mass communications platforms. His plain-spoken style was sometimes blunt, and searingly honest about himself. The effect was both folksy and sophisticated, a voice from a shrewd and well-informed skeptic.
“We want our anchors to be both good at reading the news and also pretending to be in the middle of it,” he wrote on Monday in the wake of revelations that the NBC anchor Brian Williams had lied about being in a helicopter under fire in Iraq in 2003.
“That’s why, when the forces of man or Mother Nature whip up chaos, both broadcast and cable news outlets are compelled to ship the whole heaving apparatus to far-flung parts of the globe, with an anchor as the flag bearer. We want our anchors to be everywhere, to be impossibly famous, globe-trotting, hilarious, down-to-earth, and above all, trustworthy. It’s a job description that no one can match.”
Where does the media go from here? It isn’t clear after this horrendously bad month for the industry, but there sure are a lot of big shoes to fill.
(Correction:This article originally stated that David Carr had two children. He had three.)
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.