In an industry already floundering, the deaths of two of its biggest and best journalists couldn’t have come at a worse time.
A worst time not just in the immediate aftermath of the Brian Williams debacle and Jon Stewart’s announcement but in the overall growing pains of an industry trying to find itself amid a society vastly different from it was 20 years ago.
David Carr, as many have ruminated on, was “the critic and champion” of journalism. Nothing I write here can better hit at the crux of who Carr was than what’s already been curated here and poignantly stated here. He was devoted to shepherding new generations of journalists and was as critical of his own work as he was of others.
Bob Simon, of similar ilk to Carr, embodied all of what it takes to be a foreign correspondent. Never afraid of confrontation or danger, he said what he meant and meant what he said.
Quiet and determined, he would never write his script before seeing his images and his images were almost always filmed in his presence after he had met and become acquainted with the people he was reporting about. That is why when Simon produced his television reports, you could see and hear poetry. His words and images were a unified rhapsody where every frame and every word had a meaning. His stand ups were never fake or taped near comfortable hotels; they were from the heart of the stories he was reporting.
Losing him in such a mundane way seems almost blasphemous to his reputation.
So with the deaths of Carr and Simon, where does the industry go next?
Can we trust that other well-prosed and respectable voices like Carr’s will emerge to hold journalists and the industry accountable? Can we rely on the media to be more self-aware in Carr’s absence?
The outpouring of grief in the wake of Carr’s death suggests two things: One, obviously, that he was so well-respected and well-liked by many in and out of the industry; But two, that without him, the future of journalism is screwed.
It’s like everyone was saying, “He was it, guys. He was our best shot of making it through these uncertain times.”
What does that say that one man was the end-all, be-all in media criticism? He wasn’t the only media critic, but certainly he was the only who mattered.
Simon’s death leaves a crater in careful, meaningful journalism that has largely been absent in broadcast journalism. His passing mirrors that of the passing of quality broadcast. In the Vietnam War era, the era that Simon came of age professionally, broadcast changed history. It did what print could never do. That’s given way to talking heads and infotainment, to the Powers-That-Be who preach fear-mongering over truth, and who believe their audiences need their hand held on almost all matters.
The deaths of Carr and Simon should leave us in the media with a desire to do better and be better. Be more reflective on our work and of others, be bold with our reporting and remember to always serve the reader first. That’s really the only way to protect their legacies.