Jay Meehan: Blindsides to the delivery system
"The medium is the message."
~ Marshall McLuhan
For one whose relationship with change is problematic at best, the recent upheaval within the national media is, to say the least, unsettling. To have Bob Simon of CBS News and David Carr of The New York Times pass on without even a teaser during a recent, quite short, news cycle, caught me totally unawares.
Simon, of course, insinuated himself into the collective consciousness of my generation during the "end game" of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. For a reporter who molded irony and insight into sculptures which, when viewed through the rear-view mirror, have truly stood the test of time, his fashioning of national bleakness into mind-edible nourishment struck a nerve.
A Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in history, Simon would go on to a career covering what usually evolved out of his species’ seeming inability to rationally interact: War, or whatever trendy euphemism gained cachet within congressional committees and corporate boardrooms of the time.
When he and his news crew were detained for forty days by Iraqi forces during the 1991 Gulf War, Simon himself became the news. As he did once again this past Wednesday while riding in the backseat of a livery cab on Manhattan’s West Side Highway when it rear-ended another vehicle and crashed.
The irony of having died in a car wreck after having survived most every combat zone since the ’60s would not have escaped Simon’s keen sense of the absurd.
Or as a "60 Minutes" producer said in a statement: "It is such a tragedy made worse because we lost him in a car accident, a man who has escaped more difficult situations than almost any journalist in modern times."
Which brings us to the equally tragic demise of that great, reformed substance abuser and one of the more-brilliant minds of our day, the celebrated New York Times media columnist David Carr.
A major hero of mine, not just because, as I, he was widely considered "an asshole" by his peers or that, as I, his ecstatic and improvisational dancing could stop a truck, but for his insatiable appetite for the truth, even when it led him to his own tortured soul.
But going back to his singularly evolved "hoofing" technique, a quote in the Daily Beast from someone at his recent "wake" captures the drift. "If you haven’t seen David dance, it’s amazing," [he] recounted. "I can’t tell if he’s the worst dancer I’ve ever seen or the best dancer I’ve ever seen. But he’s the least insecure dancer I’ve ever seen." Now that resonates! Big time!
A former crack addict, a lifestyle documented in his acclaimed 2008 memoir, "The Night of the Gun," Carr died of complications from lung cancer and heart disease, the results, quite probably, of swapping out cocaine for cigarettes and soft drinks when he went clean.
Carr collapsed in his office only a few hours after moderating a panel discussion on the Academy Award-nominated documentary film "Citizenfour" with filmmaker Laura Poitras, investigative journalist Glen Greenwald, and the film’s subject, Edward Snowden, who appeared live on a video link from Russia.
During the conversation, which is available online via video, Carr appears to be running on all journalistic cylinders, a quality quite evident in his weekly Times column "The Media Equation," the 2011 documentary "Page One: Inside the New York Times," and his aforementioned tell-all memoir.
What immediately drew me to Carr once I became aware of his writing and storytelling talents was his quirky intellectualism, over-the-top personality, and dogged vetting of any story, including his own. Very seldom did anything escape his spot-on scrutiny.
In losing Bob Simon and David Carr on back-to-back days last week, both journalists as a whole and culture and media watchers everywhere are the losers. Luckily for us, the fact that they were both mentors to their younger colleagues should soften the blow, somewhat.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.
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