New York Times reporter, blogger and video star David Carr was at the annual Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention in Philadelphia this weekend reminding alt-weeklies they can keep their ships afloat. He stressed the importance of multimedia as staff cutbacks, the uncertainty of profit and the uncharted push to the Internet continue to challenge the industry.
Carr edited alt-weeklies in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., and has worked with the Times on the Web since 2005. His first book The Night of the Gun and its multimedia accompaniment is due this summer. PW sat down with Carr to discuss the future of alt-weeklies.
Your new book is on the way. What's it about?
"It'll be out Aug. 5 on Simon & Schuster. It's another one of those junky memoirs because I used to be involved in cocaine. It was well-reviewed in Kirkus Reviews. It's got good blurbs and all the things you're supposed to have. But it's my first book, so we'll see."
You interviewed dozens of friends and colleagues on video to share on the book's website. Where do you draw the line between too little and too much content?
"That's what we're wrestling with now--how much of the story to tell. What if my website is really good and you go there and say, 'I don't need that book'?"
You wrote one of The New York Times' first blogs and created video content to go along with it. Do you think alt-weeklies creating daily blog content will connect with readers who are used to a weekly product?
"Tim Keck of the Seattle Stranger has trained his readers to come back to him every day. It's all in where you assign your resources daily and weekly. You're surrounding the consumer with your content on a variety of platforms and they can choose when and how to consume it. I know that sounds real buzzworthy and shit, but it's fact."
You were praised (and surely criticized) for a print story you wrote after months of blogging in which you let your blogging voice slip into a culture piece.
"You can't drag that voice into news and features pages. Sam Sifton, who edited my pieces, said, 'Whoa, dude, slow down. You have to find other people and see what they think too.' Oh yeah, that journalism thing, I remember that. What's important is keeping all these jobs and personae and tasks separate. At [the Times] they say the [blogging] standard is exactly the same as it is in the newspaper. I don't think that's really true in the blogs. I think we're proudly more opinionated than we are in the news pages."
Will that analysis-driven blogging voice ever take precedence, and will people ever look for that in a news piece?
"The New York Times has changed so much in the last 10 years in terms of analysis that revolution has been very baked-in. Anytime there's a big political event, there's always somebody talking about what it means, and yes, they're reporting, but they're mostly going on what they know to be true."
What do you say to the editor who isn't interested in the Web and wants to stick to the coveted print edition?
"Goodbye. See ya. You can hang on to your 60-year-old reader, but that dude doesn't buy a whole lot. If you want the active, engaged consumer demographic, you've got to meet them at whatever platform they choose. They're in charge; we're not."