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Blinkhorn: Signal Or Noise

Last October, on a whim, I emailed David Carr inviting him to speak at a Dartmouth college symposium this coming summer.

He didn’t know me from Adam, but I knew and admired his wonderful reporting and writing, his piercing and witty insights into the changing role of media in our society, his legendary mentoring of some of the best young reporters and writers in the country, and most of all, the amazing way he pulled himself up from alcohol and drug addiction to fame and glory.He wrote about that experience with riveting honesty in his best-selling memoir, The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life. His own.

And his Media Equation column in the Times was the first thing I turned to every Monday morning.

He responded to my email positively a few days later… “Hey Thomas, sounds like fun,” he wrote in an email that ended with a typical Carrism: “Conveyed to You from the very recent past by tiny winged creatures.”

This summer Dartmouth’s institution for lifelong education, recently renamed Osher@Dartmouth will discuss The Future of American Power and Influence in the World. These events typically bring about 800 people to the Spaulding auditorium in Hanover on successive Wednesday mornings.

Carr, who called himself a shanty Irishman from Minneapolis, was invited to give a media perspective on the theme.

Carr and I exchanged emails about the August 5 event. He said he would drive over from Corinth, New York, where he and his family would be vacationing in a cabin in the Adirondacks.

Along with biographical material to use for the symposium brochure I asked him for a note about his presentation. He responded, “Carr will talk about how the disruption of the media has led to many new voices but a diminution of the village common. Never before have so many people been heard, courted, followed and programmed but how much is signal and how much is noise?”

To hear him elaborate on that idea would have been truly fascinating.

At the conclusion of his memoir, Carr wrote: “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.”

Sadly, David Carr’s caper ended much too soon.

And Monday mornings will never be the same for me.

Tom Blinkhorn worked for 30 years in international development with the World Bank in Africa, India, and the former Soviet Union. Before that he worked for 12 years as a reporter for US and Canadian newspapers.
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