Carr Talk

Senior spring. A season of hope and opportunity.

Unless, that is, your industry of choice is holding talks called, "Fallen Sky." Today, the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School hosted New York Times media columnist David Carr, a man who knows a thing or two about rock bottom, to discuss the future of the journalism industry in the middle of the financial free fall.

All the Chicken Littles, it seems, have it right.

"As we know, big chunks of the sky have begun to fall," Carr said,  ticking off a national map of newspaper despair: Seattle, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, Philadelphia.

"I'm not going to through the dreary tick-tock...It really sucks out there. Let's just stipulate that."

The word, "gallows," came up. There was mentioning of "people whose heads are getting blown off."

The collective journalistic "ass is on fire," Carr said.

Read on after the jump for more dire proclamations about journalism's future--or lack thereof.

Reporters don't know who their friends are these days.

Google may not be helping with its decision to begin advertising on its Google News site.

"They scrape not only our content but our audience as well," Carr warned.

All that linking has got Carr down.

"If the host dies, you may have to pick up the phone. Are you read for that?" he warned bloggers.

He worries that while the internet is expanding audiences to unprecedented levels, sites like Facebook shrink reader's attention.

"Vanity media is like having this little yellow lab in the household. 'What about me? Aren't you going to update me?' How are you going to compete with that?"

Carr pooh-pooh-ed the potential for a charitable model to support the media, an idea floated by Slate's Jacob Weisberg last week.

"You have to think your funders go over your shoulder," he said. "What if the ox you're going to gore is them?"

But the advertising just isn't there. One of member of the Newhouse publishing clan, Carr said, told him that their ad base at the New Jersey Star-Ledger is a quarter of what is once was.

What should the press do? For starters, stop canceling its conventions.

"Would there be any more important time to come together and talk about 'Holy shit! What has happened to us?'" Carr asked.

And yet, looking toward places like India and its booming demand for news, Carr finds hope.

"I think, long-term, this is a great business to be in. It is just really disruptive, painful changes right now."

Okay, maybe not all that much hope.


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