Philosophy

Vegetarian Ideal


Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth
as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
- Albert Einstein

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. - Howard Zinn

COMPASSION

Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which man ceases to live thoughtlessly and begins to devote himself to his life
with reverence in order to give it true value.
— Albert Schweitzer

8/25/2015

David Carr’s Last Word on Journalism, Aimed at Students



Last Word on Journalism, Aimed at Students
With DAVID CARR
FEB. 15, 2015


“The ability to do journalism, to reach audiences, has never been better. I like your odds. I do,” David Carr said, while giving the 2014 commencement address at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism.CreditKevin Hume

David Carr was known at The New York Times as a supreme talent scout, a mentor to young reporters and a blunt critic of those who didn’t measure up. He was a natural teacher, and right up until the day he died last week, he was bent on minting the next generation of journalists. Last fall, David joined the faculty at Boston University’s communications school. While David did not write his curriculum as a column, it has all the essential ingredients of one. So here it serves as the final Media Equation under David’s byline.

“I love the current future of journalism we are living through and care desperately about getting my students ready to prosper in this new place,” read the quotation below David’s portrait in a photo gallery at B.U., where David served as the first Andrew R. Lack professor.

The class he taught offered a window into the future he was trying to shape. His course, called Press Play, focused on the cutting edge of media and was about “making and distributing content in the present future we are living through.” David cared deeply about nurturing reporters-to-be — college students who felt the calling and were looking for a spiritual guide to help them navigate the rapidly shifting media landscape.

A collection of memories and reactions to the death of Mr. Carr, who The Times’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, called “the finest media reporter of his generation.”

The syllabus for Press Play, published on the blogging platform Medium, is perhaps David’s most succinct prescription for how to thrive in the digital age. It is also David in his purest form — at once blunt, funny, haughty, humble, demanding, endearing and unique.

David was interested in people, not their résumés. He didn’t care where someone went to college or who their parents were. So instead of giving his students a standard biographical blurb (graduate of the University of Minnesota, editor of The Washington City Paper, media columnist at The Times since 2005), David told them this, under the heading “Not need to know, but nice to know”:

“Your professor is a terrible singer and a decent dancer. He is a movie crier but stone-faced in real life. He never laughs even when he is actually amused. He hates suck-ups, people who treat waitresses and cab drivers poorly and anybody who thinks diversity is just an academic conceit. He is a big sucker for the hard worker and is rarely dazzled by brilliance. He has little patience for people who pretend to ask questions when all they really want to do is make a speech.

“He has a lot of ideas about a lot of things, some of which are good. We will figure out which is which together. He likes being challenged. He is an idiosyncratic speaker, often beginning in the middle of a story, and is used to being told that people have no idea what he is talking about. It’s fine to be one of those people. In Press Play, he will strive to be a lucid, linear communicator.

“Your professor is fair, fundamentally friendly, a little odd, but not very mysterious. If you want to know where you stand, just ask.”

He encouraged teamwork. “While writing, shooting, and editing are often solitary activities, great work emerges in the spaces between people,” David wrote, adding, “Evaluations will be based not just on your efforts, but on your ability to bring excellence out of the people around you.”

David Carr at home in 2008.
Credit Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times


David warned there would be a heavy reading list. “I’m not sliming you with a bunch of textbooks, so please know I am dead serious about these readings,” he wrote. “Skip or skim at your peril.”

Each of his classes and reading assignments spoke to specific pieces of his vision for the future. “You Are What You Type on” was the title of his Week 3 lecture, “a discussion of how, more and more, the medium is becoming the message.”

In Week 5, “New Business Models for Storytelling,” David required the students to read “GE Becomes Legitimate Online News Publisher,” a Digiday article that explored how General Electric was producing its own high-quality news content, known as “native advertising.” 

A few weeks later, in a class called “Storytelling Innovations,” David, a music nut, assigned Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor,” a trailblazing interactive video that the rock band produced along with Google.

As forward-thinking as David was, he also revered great journalism in the traditional sense. Sprinkled throughout the course list are pieces that have nothing to do with content management systems or multimedia packaging. 

He asked his students to read, before the semester began, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations,” the provocative essay published last year in The Atlantic describing how blacks should be financially compensated for having been handicapped throughout American history. 

For the second week, he assigned “Consider the Lobster,” David Foster Wallace’s dispatch from the Maine Lobster Festival that considered whether it was “all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure.”

And as an exceptional writer with a unique voice, David did not forsake the opportunity to share those gifts.

In a class called “Voice Lessons,” he sought to teach students “how to quit sounding like everyone else and begin sounding like ... yourself.”

“From asking me about my personal experiences and things that had happened in my life, he would give me advice specifically geared to me,” said Prim Chuwiruch, 24, who is originally from Thailand and was a graduate student in David’s first class. “He would say, ‘These are things that you have that no one else does, and you should channel that.’ ”

In the curriculum, David said: “Who you are and what you have been through should give you a prism on life that belongs to you only. We will talk about the uses and abuses of a writer’s voice, how to express yourself in copy without using the ‘I’ word and why ending stories with a quote from someone else is often the coward’s way out.”

The Sweet Spot

A series of videos featuring David Carr and A.O. Scott discussing movies and popular culture.


WATCH VIDEOS


Mikaela Lefrak, 26, was his teaching assistant his first semester. “He didn’t want us to sound like everyone else,” she wrote in an email. “He wanted us to sound better. Extended metaphors should be indulged and encouraged — the stranger, the better. 

And clichés were poison. ‘Try harder,’ he told me constantly. ‘Create something with your own dirty little hands.

The curriculum’s personal lessons were as rich as the pedagogical ones. “Don’t raise your hand in class,” he wrote. “This isn’t Montessori, I expect people to speak up when they like, but don’t speak over anyone.”

“If you text or email during class, I will ignore you as you ignore me,” David added. “It won’t go well.”

If his students did put in the effort, however, he made himself available.

“When class ended, it didn’t mean that he went back to New York and stopped being our teacher,” said Brooke Jackson-Glidden, 20, who credits being a student of David’s with helping her secure her current spot in The Boston Globe’s co-op program, something like an internship. “He understood that I cared about this,” she added, “and that’s all that really mattered to him.”

David exuded confidence but was also humble. As he dove into his new job last fall, he acknowledged that the professor himself had a lot to learn. He cautioned the students that his classroom would be a work in progress.

“The good news is that this is the first time that I have taught this class, so boredom will not be an issue. It’s also the bad news, because even though I have done a great deal of teaching over the years, it’s the first time I’ve been an actual professor and have had to string together an entire semester. You are a beta, which means things will be exciting and sometimes very confusing. Let’s be honest with each other when that happens. If you don’t get where I am going or what I want, say so. I care deeply that I do a good job in all endeavors, especially this one.”




David Carr, Times Critic and Champion of Media, Dies at 58 FEB. 12, 2015

The Quotable David CarrFEB. 13, 2015 


A Collection of David Carr’s Columns 



A version of this article appears in print on February 16, 2015, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: A Writer’s Last Word on Journalism, Aimed at Students 

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