March 1, 2015

Following David Carr’s death, Jacqui Banaszynski watched as a gush of tweets and Facebook posts rushed by about Carr and his work. She rediscovered stories The New York Times’ media critic wrote that she’d forgotten, including pieces on ethics, social media and his own reporting.

I wish I could put this in front of my students, she thought.

“And then I thought, why couldn’t I?”

“It just all of the sudden occurred to me,” she said, “what if you created an entire class in which the students had to literally build their entire reading curriculum around David’s covering of the media, challenging of the media and the media’s role in society?”

Banaszynski, a professor and the Knight Chair of Journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia, first met Carr 35 years ago when they both worked in the Twin Cities as journalists. They kept in touch over the years.

Carr, who died on Feb. 12, was the best thing out there, Banaszynski said.

She co-teaches a senior capstone class each fall to students at Mizzou (which is where I graduated from) called Journalism and Democracy. Her co-teacher is Tom Warhover, an associate professor and the Columbia Missourian’s executive editor for innovation. As part of the class, students have to produce a project, such as last year’s “Cover Your Gap,” which has tools to help journalists cover income inequality. In the fall, they’ll use Carr’s work as the course’s reading material.

Using his work illustrates several things, Banaszynski said, including how he looked at stories, how he developed sources and how he laid out his arguments.

“It’s a perfect model for the best kind of journalism that involves independent thinking and creative problem solving,” she said.

“Carr spoke to journalism in such a way that it was both scathing and exceedingly loyal at the same time,” Warhover said. “His columns were both full of ego and humility, and I think they did a terrific job of reflecting our time, which is not our time, it’s my student’s time, or it will be the semester after they take this course.”

Banaszynski’s next challenge is looking back through Carr’s work and finding the pieces that have the greatest potential to get students thinking. She’ll boil that down to 15 or 20 pieces and include some other writers, too, she said. “We’re calling it David Carr and friends.”

Banaszynski, who is a visiting faculty member for Poynter and a Pulitzer Prize winner, also hopes her students will get a few other things from absorbing Carr’s work.

“I’m hoping they walk away with a greater awareness and a greater ability to articulate and grasp the connection between the persistent, eternal bedrock values of journalism and the practice of journalism in a new era, when a lot of those things are challenged.”

It’s one of the things that Carr did so well, she said. He was an old-school journalist, “who embraced social media and the digital age, did it and did it right without ever letting go of those values.”

Banaszynski also hopes some of the love Carr had for the profession rubs off on her students.

“I’m hoping that one of the things they come away with is just a sense of joy for this work and passion for doing this work well,” she said, “because that is what Carr did. Nobody worked harder and nobody loved it more.”

Once Banaszynski figures out her list, we’ll share it here. In the meantime, what pieces of David Carr’s work would you recommend?

File photo: David Carr in 2008.  (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)

File photo: David Carr in 2008. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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