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A Salute To Bob Simon And David Carr Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

13 February 2015

It's been a tough week in the newsroom. Losing Bob Simon two days ago and David Carr last night. They were both uncommonly bright and candid reporters. And inspirations in an age that would replace the simple but difficult task of reporting the news with the adolescent stuff that makes metrics merry.

Simon's advice to news reporters at the 2010 Emmy awards ceremony has been widely quoted but we're clipping it out to put it here in our own little scrapbook of things not to be forgotten:

There are not two sides to every story. There were not two sides to the stories in Sarajevo or Rwanda.

Whenever someone calls you by your first name when you're interviewing them, as in "let me tell you what really happened Morley," chances are he's lying. Honest subjects addressed him as "Safer." If you want to make sure you're not being lied to, do what I've done over the last two and a half years, do animal stories.

Carr, the ex-addict who covered himself as candidly as the clowns across the table from him, certainly appreciated the efficiencies of modern journalism:

We are entering a golden age of journalism. I do think there has been horrible frictional costs, but I think when we look back at what has happened, I look at my backpack that is sitting here and it contains more journalistic firepower than the entire newsroom that I walked into 30 to 40 years ago. It's connected to the cloud, I can make digital recordings of everything that I do, I can check in real time if someone is telling me the truth, I have a still camera that takes video that I can upload quickly and seamlessly.

But he also expressed an appreciation for the job that only slightly veiled its obligations:

Being a journalist, I never feel bad talking to journalism students because it's a grand, grand caper. You get to leave, go talk to strangers, ask them anything, come back, type up their stories, edit the tape. That's not gonna retire your loans as quickly as it should and it's not going to turn you into a person who's worried about what kind of car they should buy, but that's kind of as it should be. I mean, it beats working.

No one is really up to the impossible task of telling someone else's story. But it's enough to make an honest effort, communicating some spark of truth to your reader -- even if you never quite feel as if you've done the subject justice.

As he wrote at the end of his memoir The Night of the Gun:

I now inhabit a life I don't deserve but we all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful and hope the caper doesn't end any time soon.

It ended too soon for both Simon and Carr. But we'll remain grateful to them for what they managed to do. And that they took a moment or two to explain how to do it the right way.

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