David Carr, media columnist for the New York Times, admits that he’s a word guy.
On September 11, 2001, Carr was dispatched to cover the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers. A few block from Ground Zero, Building #7 in the World Trade Center complex collapsed. An enormous cloud of dust and debris rolled down the street where Carr was stationed.
He dove under a parked automobile where a pigeon had also taken cover.
“We had an inter-species moment,” Carr said. “Both of us were looking at each other as if to say, ‘What the freak are we doing here?’”
Under the car, David found a copy of Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style.” He put it in his pocket and still cherishes the edition. He admits he can’t write as eloquent as the guide advises, but he believes the book solidified his passion for words.
Carr was putting this story in the context of Web 2.0 and the changes in journalism, communications and public relations at the second day of the PRSA Digital Impact Conference in New York City today. He spoke to a packed room of PR professionals about his transformation from “Fred Flintstone” into a journalist utilizing the tools of the Internet – from blogging to video.
Carr said in today’s world professionals are faced with “hellacious clutter” from living modern, technology enabled lives.
“While I’m talking you’re all going to be checking your mobile phones, iPhones and checking email,” he said. “I don’t blame you, we’re all too busy. We all get hundreds of emails a day. We are all fighting for our content to be noticed.”
Carr has moved from being a wordsmith to experimenting with online videocasts and a New York Times’ sponsored blog called “Carpetbagger” – a blog about the Oscars.
“We are in a pull world, not push,” Carr said. “And if you are in the push business, well, time to rethink.”
Carr suggested that PR people embrace new technologies, but to be cautious about listening to anyone who claims to know what going to happen next. “No one can anticipate what’s next in this market,’’ he said. “It’s moving too fast.”