David Carr was a scarecrow of a man, wiry and sharp, his eyes bright and a smile bubbling up here and there when he knew he was right or when he was proud of you. Those who were subjects of his anger wouldn’t soon forget him, however. In one notable exchange with the editors of Vice magazine he sat patiently as co-creator Shane Smith bad-mouthed Carr’s home since 2002, the New York Times.
“Well, I’ve got to tell you one thing: I’m a regular guy and I go to these places and I go, ‘Okay, everyone talked to me about cannibalism, right? Everyone talked about cannibalism.’ Now I’m getting a lot of shit for talking about cannibalism,” said Smith describing his coverage of a refugee camp in Africa. “And the New York Times, meanwhile, is writing about surfing, and I’m sitting there going like, ‘You know what? I’m not going to talk about surfing, I’m going to talk about cannibalism, because that fucks me up.'”
Carr was still.
“Just a sec, time out,” he said. “Before you ever went there, we’ve had reporters there reporting on genocide after genocide. Just because you put on a fucking safari helmet and looked at some poop doesn’t give you the right to insult what we do. So continue.”
A fierce defender of the past and a fiercer proponent of the future, Carr was a shining example of an print-hound turned media-savvy writer. He was beloved by the many young journalists he advised (and admonished) and he loved new media, writing little notes to up-and-coming journalists like our own Alexia Tsotsis: “nice to meet,” he wrote in 2009. “Will commence to following you like a trusty yellow lab on twitter.”
He worked as a media and business journalist at the New York Times after a long career online and at alt news weeklies in the Midwest. He was haunted by an addiction to cocaine and his book about that period, Night of the Gun, is a masterwork in remembering. He aimed his wit and intelligence at himself, reporting on the horror of his own addiction in the same way he reported on everything else: with grace and humility.
In a decade of swift change in media and technology, Carr was a bellwether. His profiles of Gawker Media’s Nick Denton, BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti, and others gave legitimacy and depth to the burgeoning world of online media even as the organizations that formed him – organizations anchored in print – came to a shuddering stop. He saw which way the wind was blowing and wanted to help young writers tack their sails.
Outpourings of sorrow on Twitter attested to his world-wide popularity. Thinkers, writers, actors, and artists proclaimed their grief alongside the entrepreneurs that bankrolled their work.
His wit won’t be forgotten. “Years ago David Carr interviewed a bunch of us for a story on Entertainment Weekly,” wrote EW editor Mark Harris on Twitter. “At the end, he said, ‘Some of you are smart. Some aren’t,’ smiled, and left.”
He collapsed at work and was pronounced dead St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan. He is survived by his wife Jill Rooney Carr and his daughters, Maddie, Erin, and Meagan. His final tweet went out at 6pm. It was a reminder to watch the live streamed panel he moderated with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras with Edward Snowden joining remotely. He was 58.