David Carr spoke about his life as New York Times media columnist at the 40th “My Life As…” event. Frank Posillico/The Statesman

New York Times’ media columnist David Carr, a star of the documentary “Page One” and the featured speaker at last week’s “My Life As…” event, said his “biggest desire was not to screw things up” when he went to work for the Times.

“Let me just clue you in — when you get a job and you think some mistake has been made, that feeling never goes away,” Carr said. “We all walk this earth feeling like frauds, and we all feel like we’re maybe not smart enough to do what we do.”

Carr, who was brought to Stony Brook University by the Center for News Literacy on March 12, said he does not have the typical resume of a New York Times writer, as he stumbled into the industry during college and became addicted to cocaine shortly after.

“I ended up way, way down the hole,” Carr said. “It’s an incredibly boring lifestyle, getting and using substances over and over. I pretty much washed out at journalism even though I loved it.”


When his girlfriend got pregnant, Carr sought treatment and won custody, and, as a welfare recipient, entered back into the world of journalism to support his family.

Dean Miller, director of the Center for News Literacy, said that the evening was “as much for non-journalists as for journalists,” because the career narrative that speakers like Carr provide is useful for anyone figuring out their future.

Carr also discussed the state of the news media and the ramifications of ever-changing technology for older generations, especially as journalists.

“For you guys, making media and consuming media are not separate acts,” Carr said. “That isn’t what it’s like for us old people. You’re digital natives, we’re digital immigrants, and it’s exhausting to live in this world.”


Not only does Carr find working with new technology exhausting, but he is also concerned that using it may inhibit his ability to produce quality work.

“I do worry that I’m going to be too busy producing media to consume media,” he said. “The people who are there know the least and are just trying to push out info. I worry that I’m not getting smarter but that I’m getting dumber, and I’m losing my ability to think long thoughts.”

For that reason, Carr still reads the daily paper for its “hierarchy of information,” and thinks that the print newspaper will survive, even if there are fewer of them and they become seen as a “luxury artifact.”

“We put the white paper out so people give us the green paper back,and we’re not going to stop doing that,” said Carr, who volunteered his time and was not paid a fee to speak at the event.

Sophomore Manasvi Pasaw-ala, said she enjoyed when an audience member asked Carr to compare selling news to selling cocaine.


“The question was so unusual, and his answer made a lot of sense,” she said. “I was impressed that he actually answered it.”

Carr’s response to the question: “One metric that pulls them together I guess would be quality. Really good crack or really good news is going to sell itself.”



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