David Carr, columnist for The New York Times, said the world of professional journalism has drastic changes to make, but can survive the new digital age.
Carr, a media reporter for The New York Times who was featured in the documentary about the paper, “Page One,” spoke Wednesday at the Mary Alice Davis Distinguished Lecture Series, a series dedicated to facilitating talks about journalism and the direction it is heading.
“Mary Alice was a very feisty, independent person who really believed in journalism as a force for change in society,” Glenn Frankel, UT School of Journalism director, said. “The family feels very strongly that they want journalists who play that role today.”
In his lecture, Carr suggested the newspaper as his generation has known it is already obsolete.
“We’re built on scarcity in print,” Carr said. “You lose compression on pricing when you have no scarcity.”
Carr said the transition from the print to the digital model, where pieces of news fly in rapid succession, is going to be difficult. According to the Pew Research Center, industry-wide print ad revenue decreased by about $24 billion from 2003 to 2011, while online ad revenue increased by only about $2 billion in the same time period.
“Big news is still the killer app,” Carr said. “You’ve got to think of the journalism business as being in one hall and down here is this wonderful digital nirvana, but there’s this long dark hall in between.”
Carr said he still believes journalism will eventually find its way to remain profitable in changing times. He said his publication has already taken steps to that end, including putting up a pay wall for frequent readers.
“We say, ‘Good to see ya, how about giving us a little sugar here?’” Carr said. “Everybody said, ‘You’re drilling a hole in the bottom of your boat.’ ... Turns out we’re not drilling a hole in the bottom of our boat, we’re installing a new engine.”
Carr said he believes young people are willing to pay the convenience charge for coverage that sorts through the digital flurry of news. In a 2011 Growth From Knowledge Mediamark Research and Intelligence poll, 22 percent of people aged 18 to 24 read newspapers at least every other day compared to 40 percent of adults overall.
“A couple of years ago my colleague was doing a story about how young people consume news and one said, ‘If news is important, it will find me,’” Carr said. “If we get you thinking of us as an app and not a subscription, then we’re going to win.”
Printed on Thursday, October 25, 2012 as: Times columnist gives opinion on future of journalism, news