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David Carr Needs to Lean In

This is a guest post by Diana Lind. Diana Lind lives in Philadelphia and is editor in chief of Next City.

On the bus to work last Monday morning, I read the print version of the New York Times; on my way home, I read Lean In on my Kindle for iPhone. The two messages, not to mention their media, never seemed so far apart.

As an editor of an online magazine, I anticipate reading the Times’ Business Day section on Mondays and its section-wide focus on media trends. And since David Carr is the paper’s main media columnist, I look forward to reading what he has to say. But like every other Monday I could remember, Carr’s column profiled yet another man.

In this particular case, he was writing about Steve Coll, the New Yorker writer who has just been named Dean of Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Carr’s piece didn’t just focus on another white male writer, it also relied solely on quotes from other white male writers (ie. John Schwartz of the New York Times and Michael Wolff of USA Today). Carr’s column was attempting to persuade readers that Coll is ready for the disruptions in the journalism field; given Carr’s own stodgy reliance on writing about the other guys in the field he already knows, Carr made that harder to believe.

Carr stayed true to form yesterday with a column celebrating the late Roger Ebert. Researching the column, it’s clear that Carr specializes in male reportage. Look at the last year of his blog posts and printed pieces and you’ll see a repetitive slew of the same kind of profiles: white media figures (Andrew Sullivan, Aaron Sorkin, Piers Morgan, David Bradley, Keith Olbermann, Andrew Breitbart) or of bright new male things (the guys behind Atavist, Byliner and South Park).

In 2013, he’s only devoted one such feature to a woman: Martha Stewart. Looking back into 2012, he wrote about a new editor at Cosmo, the media’s depictions of Michelle Obama and how the female publisher of the Washington Post might bring its downfall. It would be oversimplifying if it didn’t seem kind of true: he writes about women in the context of cooking, worrying about their looks, primping themselves for sex, or being inept. There isn’t a profile of someone like Sandberg among them.

We imagine Silicon Valley and Wall Street to be male-dominated worlds, but that’s only partly true. The media, and old heads like David Carr, are to be blamed for the way they cover boy geniuses and can’t seem to find an angle on women who are blazing new paths in the field. Where’s the Carr profile on Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale, Inc? If looking for bright young things, how about looking at writing about Lily Liu’s empire PublicStuff? Why hasn’t he written about the National Magazine Awards and how they’ve corrected their boy bias this year?

If David Carr is going to remain the lead columnist for media trends at the Times, he can’t just report on “disruption,” he needs to be open to it himself. As I rode home reading Sheryl Sandberg, I couldn’t help but think that David Carr was just like one of the many clueless men she recounts who have no idea of their biases and the ways they overlook women. As Sandberg says, it’s up to women to correct those kind of guys. I hope David Carr is listening.

16 thoughts on David Carr Needs to Lean In

  1. Well said! Yet another example of the boys’ club at work. Omission = Chauvinism. I like David Carr; I don’t go around thinking, “oh, David Carr, sexist pig.” But that’s why this is so necessary.

  2. Now, I’m not saying the most already-famous subjects are the only ones who should be profiled, but you’re hardly helping your argument by saying that Carr is in the wrong for profiling Andrew Sullivan, Aaron Sorkin, Piers Morgan, David Bradley, Keith Olbermann, Andrew Breitbart and the guys from South Park instead of two particular women of your chosing.
    Reading this list all I could think was “yeah, of course he profiled them.” You’d have been far more effective had you chosen less-known subjects he’s selected instead of a woman.

    1. I was waiting for someone to come in here with a version of “It’s not about gender, it’s about merit!” so consider yourself to be the first to step into that puddle of male privilege.

      If someone wants to tell me they are ignoring women in their industry because of this magically neutral measure of “merit”, they better have a fucking good set of concrete criteria to show me, because otherwise that is total bullshit.

      You realize how circular your argument is right? The idea that one cannot blame someone for covering only men because it is the men who are famous and written about?

      For fucks sake.

  3. Fair point, David Keen, and indeed, I could have noted a number of other women Carr should have profiled. Swap in any of these names for those I listed above (a bit offhandedly, I admit): swap Christiane Amanpour for Piers Morgan, Tina Brown or Arianna Huffington for David Bradley, Rachel Maddow for Keith Olbermann, etc. etc. Those are the obvious choices and frankly I wouldn’t have been psyched for Carr to profile them either (it’s been done), but surely there are plenty of women to match the stature of the men that Carr has chosen as his subjects.

  4. Carr’s autobiography of his drinking/drugging days–which is very entertaining–makes it very clear that he is a classical dudebro. So it is not at all surprising that he focuses his journalistic efforts on dudes.

  5. “it’s up to women to correct those kind of guys.”

    I have a little quibble with this- I’d instead say it’s up to *feminists* and fair-minded people of all identifications to correct them. The strongest ally can often be someone who once thought themselves your enemy.

    (Example: My boyfriend used to ascribe to the Catholic Church’s view on homosexuality, but has since switched sides and is disgusted that he once felt that way, especially given that not so long ago as a black man he wouldn’t have had equal rights either.)

  6. I just watched Carr on Charlie Rose, not 20 minutes ago. I’d never heard of him before. They were talking about network TV, cable TV , Netflix and aps. Well one thing I know, if he works for the NY Times, he’s a liberal and all of the men named above are liberals too. And here I thought liberal men and feminists were the best of friends. So I agree with the feminists, there should be women in his interviews to an equal extent.

    1. And here I thought liberal men and feminists were the best of friends.



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