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New York Times media columnist David Carr wasn’t in Austin to cover South by Southwest this year, but the newspaper man, who died Feb. 12 at the age of 58, still had a presence at the annual technology, film and music event.
The Knight Foundation hosted a tribute to Carr on Sunday, March 15, with a screening of Page One: Inside the New York Times, a documentary released in 2011 in which he was a prominent subject. Following the screening, Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter, a former colleague of Carr’s at the Times, sat down with R.B. Brenner, director of the University of Texas School of Journalism to talk about Carr’s life and legacy.
“It occurred to me in the Times newsroom the day after he died that I had never felt that building the way it felt that day,” said Stelter. “It felt like the heart had been torn out of the newsroom.”
He also praised Carr for his ability to tell stories that were critical but fair. “It’s interesting that some of his very first words on the screen [in the documentary] are ‘What do you think the story is that I should tell?’ That’s something that I now find myself asking sources as well.”
Carr started covering SXSW in 2009 and quickly became a recognizable face around Austin during the annual festival. In one of his first stories about SXSW, he wrote that it was “a great place for a person of sprawling interests, or, as in the case of this humble correspondent, someone with the attention span of a gnat.” Last year, he questioned whether the festival had lost its spirit after two were killed in a car crash.
Carr and Stelter would host an event in the courtyard at Hotel San Jose, and Stelter recalled that he was the life of the party. “Seeing a man of his age get down the way he got down at those parties was educational,” he said. “It brought us closer together.”
He added that Carr was invigorated at conferences like SXSW, where he got a chance to see what young people were doing. “For him, South by was an optimistic place,” Stelter said. “He would come here to try to see the future.”
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