Remembering David Carr and Bob Simon, two respected journalists

By Isaac Simon

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A lot of attention has been devoted to Brian Williams and the downside of celebrity journalists embellishing their own reporting. But as time passes, there is less and less to say about a man who rightfully deserves the six month suspension he was given.

More important, though, is the passing of Bob Simon and David Carr, two respected journalists we lost this past week.

Simon is perhaps the product of a bygone era, one where the journalist carried little self-satisfaction when it came to the way the story was covered. However, the stories he did cover were wide-ranging, from foreign leaders and dignitaries, to superstar athletes and Middle Eastern terrorists.

Equally as impressive though, was his relentless effort to stop at nothing but the truth. When covering the early phases of the Gulf War in 1991, Simon, along with the rest of the CBS news crew, was captured when crossing the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. They were held captive for 40 days, most of it in solitary confinement. At the time, Simon was not optimistic about his fate and thought he would be the first to die given his Jewish faith.

Simon’s natural curiosity for the truth began in 1967 when he began working for CBS news. He quickly became a foreign correspondent based in Israel in 1973. He would go on to cover the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for 40 years. He was a personal friend of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and had a quick wit and a real knack for story-telling.

Simon became a correspondent for 60 Minutes in 1996 and a full-time correspondent in 2005, where he traveled from the Arctic to Antarctic and everywhere in between.

“He had a sharp intolerance for injustice” said, Scott Pelley, managing editor and anchor of the CBS evening news and long-time colleague of Simon. In an online CBS broadcast memorializing Simon, Pelley talked about the design of his office, which was plastered with photos of his three-year-old grandson. This is not to say that Simon hadn’t earned a wide variety of awards deserving to be displayed. In a 40-plus year career, Simon received 27 Emmy awards and four Peabody’s.

Journalists and New York Times lovers everywhere are also saddened by the death of David Carr this week, who collapsed on the job at the age of 58.

Carr’s story is in many ways remarkable. He was born in Hopkins, Minnesota, and graduated from the University of Minnesota before he went on to work for the Twin Cities Reader and the Washington City Paper. He battled terrible drug addictions in the late 1980s.

Eventually, Carr moved to New York City where he covered media for Shortly thereafter he became a contributing writer for the Atlantic Monthly and New York Magazine. Carr joined the New York Times in 2002 and made a name for himself as the writer of the Monday “Media Equation” for the business section of the paper.

Carr also started the Carpet Bagger, a New York Times blog devoted to discussing Oscar nominated films. Carr was also at the center of the 2011 film, “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” a documentary about the newspaper and its struggle to stay above water amidst a dwindling newspaper environment that was both engulfed in scandal and going out of business.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., chairman and publisher of the New York Times had not only respect but admiration for the 58-year-old reporter.

“David Carr was one of the most gifted journalists who has ever worked at The New York Times,” he said. Indeed, Carr was a man who understood the power and importance of media and how it should be at the forefront of American journalism. But also, Carr represents the journalist who was able to make the 180-degree turn, from deprived drug addict struggling to take care of his children, to a heavy hitting, well-informed reporter.

Bob Simon and David Carr didn’t talk or write about themselves. They didn’t tout their accomplishments or embellish their reporting. Both of them approached their work with humility while never feeling the need to aggrandize a story. They didn’t need to become the story in order to cover the story. Because of this, the stories they shed light on are a testament to their legacy.

Simon was a powerful writer whose segments spoke volumes to the people who tuned in. Carr’s soft-spoken yet shrewd style of writing earned him the respect of an entire newspaper and revolutionized the way media was covered. Unlike these two men who left an indelible mark on the history of reporting, Brian Williams falls into the category of replaceable.

Although NBC’s suspension of Williams provides the public with the possibility of his return, no one is expecting a promising rebound. Williams could learn a thing or two from these journalists – ones who cared more about the public discourse and less about their private image.

Isaac Simon is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]