I’m sure that I’d been reading David Carr for years without paying much attention to his byline. Then two things happened in quick succession in 2011 — I saw the wonderfully engaging documentary PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES, and I read Carr’s memoir, The Night of the Gun. After that I was hooked. I read, watched and listened to anything I could find to which he contributed. I’m shocked to wake up to the news today that David Carr died yesterday at the incredibly young age of 58. (If you don’t think 58 is young now, you will before you know it.) I’m grateful that I knew his work before this morning.
David Carr could have died, would have died — maybe even should have died — many times before his untimely and unexpected death yesterday. His harrowing bout with addiction is chronicled in The Night of the Gun and so are some of his brushes with unsavory characters. Carr also survived cancer as a single dad raising young girls. His memoir is unique in that he attacked his own story the same way he attacked any story he was covering. He talked to multiple sources to compare their accounts with his own then he wrote the reported story — not the one based on his faulty or selective memory.
Carr emerged as the “star” of PAGE ONE. That film is a great introduction to what he did and how he did it. He covered the media for the New York Times and I loved reading/hearing his take on the content and the business of entertainment. Bruce Weber’s piece this morning refers to Carr as “a shrewd, well-informed skeptic”. And that he was. He also seemed to have a great sense of humor tempered with genuine but clear-eyed compassion for people. Read his piece on the Brian Williams story published in the Times this past Monday and you’ll see what I mean.
I was a huge fan of the short-lived The Sweet Spot — a weekly video webcast that Carr did with Times critic, A.O. Scott. (You can find old episodes online.) Carr, a self-proclaimed digital immigrant, seized the medium and used it to great effect. He was a character who made for good copy and interviews. He also seemed to have good character tempered by a hard life — some of it self-inflicted and some just luck of the draw.
In his memoir Carr said, “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 soon.” I’ll stop here and just offer my condolences to David Carr’s children, his wife, his family, friends and colleagues. My life is richer for having been exposed to David’s writing, speaking and his take on life and business. I’m grateful for that. But the caper ended way too soon.