David Carr: Trusted sources thrive in times of crisis

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By Bill Kirtz

New York Times media columnist David Carr sees a video future for traditional newspapers and trouble for mid-sized publishers.

Talking at MIT Wednesday night, he called the Internet “a perfect distribution machine and a perfect machine for destroying journalism business models.”

He said news consumers are in a “golden age” of self-selection. But the problem is, “when the choices are infinite, the price drops to zero. The newspaper and magazine business is built on scarcity.”

Carr said the Internet works if you’re huge or tiny, but regional newspaper franchises are imperiled.

In crisis situations like the Boston Marathon bombings, he said, “it wouldn’t be a pretty picture without the Globe,” whose website he depended on. “There’s a natural impulse to go to a trusted source.”

In an earlier MIT talk, former George W. Bush and John McCain campaign adviser Mark McKinnon expressed a similar view. He said he hoped that in the current plethora of information offerings, there will be a  “greater premium placed on good journalism [and] trusted brands and aggregators.”

Carr praised his paper’s push to create the Web’s best news site and one that’s not afraid to break news online before its print edition. He called the Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning “Snow Fall” text, video and graphics package an example of the payoff for “spending a lot to be innovative in ways to present information.”

Top journalism brands like the Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Globe will have to figure out video, he said.  “We’ll end up in that business whether we like it or not.”