Remembering David Carr

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I woke up in a bit of a fog this morning. I had woken up an hour earlier than usual, and decided to lie in bed for a bit more. I fell back into a deep sleep, and was dreaming about a call that I needed to make for work when I awoke with a start—my call was in 5 minutes.

I stumbled bleary-eyed into the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, and sat down at the computer. When I logged in, a news alert popped up on the right hand side of my screen: David Carr, New York Times Media Critic Is Dead.

I knew David Carr. Not intimately, but our professional lives crossed early on in both of our careers.

In the late 1980s, I worked as a staff writer for City Pages, an alternative weekly based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This was at the height of alt journalism: Long-form writing was treasured, the reporting was hard-hitting and thorough, and papers had plenty of ads to support a small but robust staff of writers and editors. In fact, times were so good that Minneapolis had two alternative weeklies. The other paper, Twin Cities Reader, was headed by the formidable David Carr.

David and the City Pages editor, Steve Perry, had a friendly rivalry. Both led crack teams of investigative reporters, and both spent their considerable intellectual energies trying to out scoop the other.

Sometime around 1990, the tension between the papers came to a head. The Village Voice Media company announced that they were going to buy both papers, but given the economics of journalism, planned to shutter one of them.  We were all worried about losing our jobs, but were also saddened by the fact that Minneapolis would now be a one alt-weekly town.

Ultimately, the Voice decided to keep City Pages and close Twin Cities Reader. I don’t know what prompted that decision—the papers were practically identical. But I do remember that after the announcement was made, David Carr came to the City Pages’ office to congratulate us, and to encourage us to keep up the hard work of journalism. He was that kind of a class act.

I followed David’s career after that, and was heartened to seem him land at Washington’s DC’s City Paper, and then graduate to the New York Times.  He was smart, irreverent, caustic, and an absolutely terrific writer.  But even more than that, he was a genuinely kind human being. He arose from the detritus of a crack addiction to become not only a New York Times media critic, but more importantly, a loving husband and father.

My heart goes out to all who loved him. Rest in peace, David Carr.

photo: wikipedia

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