David Carr, RIP

Reply Sat 14 Feb, 2015 07:14 pm
I know I've read him but can't tie what I've read to the person, yet.

Here's an obit I appreciate -

It's not a forbiddingly long quote, so I'll quote..

Missing David Carr
What the hell do we do now?
—By Stephanie Mencimer | Fri Feb. 13, 2015 4:26 PM EST

David Carr was a bundle of genius wrapped up in the most unlikely packaging. Once, when I was working at the Washington Monthly, he stopped by our scruffy, roach-infested Dupont Circle headquarters for a visit. He didn't get three feet into the office before another editor physically tried to shove him back out the door. He thought Carr was a homeless person who'd wandered in off the street. Steve Pomper will never live that down, but Carr and I had a good laugh about it. But that was the thing about him, especially as the wheels really started to pop off his battered body: The disguise was deceptive.

Behind the guy who often looked like a derelict was a formidable intellect and an unmatchable gift for language. Carr hired me to work for him at Washington City Paper. Even today, I can re-read my old clips from my days at City Paper and identify the brilliant one-liners that were all Carr. The "jackknife of joy" and other Carrisms that found their way into my stories have become like code words for those of us lucky enough to be in his tribe.

Carr has been a steady figure in my life for 20 years. For someone who had had such a messy personal history, he was a rock as a friend. Even after he launched into media superstardom, and it seemed he knew just about everyone worth knowing, he was always there when it counted. When I got engaged to my then-editor, Erik Wemple, Carr was the very first person we told. He was in my wedding, and gave the appropriately off-color rehearsal dinner toast. When my mother-in-law dropped dead in the supermarket unexpectedly, he was there for the funeral. He scheduled his whole summer last year to make sure he could be around to celebrate Erik's 50th birthday. He loved my children and they love him.

David Carr, with his favorite people: Jill Rooney Carr (right), Erin, Maddie and Megan Carr Carr family

In spite of the manic pace of both his work and social life, David knew what was important. He was fiercely loyal and just generally fun to have around. Loud and outspoken, he was never afraid to put his foot in his mouth—what he called his "social autism." Two summers ago, at a lake in the Adirondacks, I introduced him to a coworker and her husband, who was wearing a life jacket on the beach. Carr razzed him mercilessly about sporting the vest on dry land—only to learn later that the guy couldn't swim. He'd try speaking his loud, terrible Spanish to a street vendor, only to be told later that the vendor was from South Asia. At those moments, he could laugh at himself, and no one ever held those sorts of things against him because Carr's gaffes were invariably accompanied by such enthusiasm and effusive interest in whomever he was talking to at the time it was impossible not to love him.

To this day, I don't even know where Carr went to college, which is unusual for anyone who's spent any time in Washington. He might have liked to drop a few names, but Carr was the ultimate anti-snob. As someone who also has a forgettable college record, I loved that about him. Carr was brilliant, but he also got where he was with agonizing hard work, and working smarter than everyone else, not because of his pedigree or other credentials. That work ethos and determination carried over into his personal life.

Even though he was a physical wreck and a chain smoker, he continued to go on regular bike tours organized by his good friend John Otis. The last trip, in the Adirondacks, he did in spite of a set of ribs broken after falling off his bike in a training ride. For years, I'd wondered how he managed to keep up with the far fitter cyclists he traveled with. I thought maybe he was simply fueled by competitiveness and his determination to keep going in spite of his failing body—a defiant "**** you" to his own mortality. To an extent, that was all true. But a few years ago, I learned the real secret.

In 2011, I went to China for a visit, and Carr, a man with a friend in every port, hooked me up with his buddy Ruthie, who lived in Shanghai. Over dinner, Ruthie, who'd been on several of the bike trips, disclosed Carr's secret: He got a head start. Carr would get up and hit the road several hours before the other guys so he could keep up. If anyone had ever wondered how someone like Carr, with his history of addiction and jail and all the other stuff, ever made it to the top of the media pyramid, this story seemed to sum it all up nicely.

Over the past few years, Carr has had a bit of a haunted look about him. He'd lost weight. His health problems seemed to be dogging him more. I think everyone who knew him well recognized, at least subconsciously, that Carr was not going to be on this earth long enough to need a rocking chair. But I think we also had some collective denial about his mortality. To use a cliché he wouldn't approve of, Carr genuinely was a force of nature. I think maybe we assumed he could go on like that forever, pulling the all-nighters, smoking, drinking gallons of coffee, working like a fiend, and talking, talking and talking. But of course, he couldn't. And so here we are, devastated, grieving, missing our irreplaceable friend. I think Jake Tapper spoke for a lot of us who knew and loved Carr when he wrote in an anguished tweet today, "What the hell are we going to do now?"
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Reply Sat 14 Feb, 2015 07:24 pm
More about him -
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Reply Sat 14 Feb, 2015 07:43 pm
I was not familiar with him.
Reply Sat 14 Feb, 2015 10:13 pm
I'm still learning.

Yeah, the NYT must have been where I have read him, but I'm outta there after the paywall.

I checked re ny'er, and I'd don't find a piece written by him there.
but -


FEBRUARY 13, 2015
Postscript: David Carr (1956-2015)

Carr in New York in July, 2008.
In the spring of 1996, I walked into the offices of the Washington City Paper for what turned out to be the most bizarre job interview of my life. It took place in a darkened office—shades drawn, lights off, just a bit of illumination filtering in from the hallway. I reached for the light switch when I walked in, but a man sitting behind a desk said, “No, leave it off. I used to spend a lot of time in dark crack houses and now I can’t deal with overhead light.” I remember looking around and thinking I’d been roped into a practical joke, but without missing a beat he told me he’d read my clips and thought I had potential. I was twenty-six years old, and that was my first conversation with David Carr, who had become editor-in-chief of the weekly paper the year before. A few weeks later, I started as part of the first class of interns he brought on during his tenure.

When Carr arrived at the City Paper, in 1996, it was widely regarded as a smug outlet that issued condescension and ridicule at the foibles of Marion Barry-era Washington. The fact that few black people worked at the paper furthered the perception that it was a Bantustan of white entitlement braying at the surrounding black majority. This wasn’t a unique state of affairs—none of the Washington, D.C., publications, including the Post, had levels of diversity commensurate with the city’s. Carr went about changing this, not as a part of a liberal uplift mission but out of a sincere commitment to finding writers who could help him tell a full spectrum of Washington stories. During his first year, he hired me, Neil Drumming, who is now a television critic at Salon, Holly Bass, a performance artist and playwright, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, and gave us a space to write, learn, and make mistakes. He was never self-congratulatory about this. There was never the sense that he saw us as his prize Negro finds, but he clearly understood the implications of what he’d done, because he saw how few other people were doing it.

Carr, who died last night at the age of fifty-eight, was a journalist from the ink-and-paper era who found a foothold in the digital environment. As a media reporter for the Times and a central figure in a 2011 documentary about the paper, “Page One,” he became a figure of note, a fittingly meta development for the age. Yet he never stopped being a newsman in the old mold: he didn’t develop a brand; he built a reputation. At the City Paper, he was the editor every young writer should hope to encounter: as harsh as he was forgiving, accessible, with an outlook that could be described as jaded idealism. He was allergic to euphemism and a believer that journalism was the art of curating minutiae. He also had one of the most valuable attributes a writer can claim—an ability to withhold personal judgment.

Maybe that openness was always part of his disposition, but if you read “The Night of the Gun,” his memoir about his harrowing years as a crack addict in Minnesota, you got the impression that his reluctance to judge others was a product of a hard-won understanding of human fallibility, beginning with his own. That world-weary outward expression was not an affect—if he hadn’t seen it all, he’d at least witnessed enough to issue some preliminary findings, and, from that vantage point, had accumulated a good deal of sympathy for others.

What made him more than simply a humbled former user, however, was the fact that he didn’t confuse his unwillingness to judge with an absence of standards. During one early editorial meeting at the City Paper, Carr walked in, sat down, and matter of factly explained that we’d embarrassed ourselves with the previous issue. He pointed to our exact failings and demanded explanations—very specific explanations—for how we planned to avoid embarrassing ourselves in the future. I started at the paper very much afflicted with the insufferable omniscience of many twenty-something writers. I came out of one of Carr’s legendarily scalding critiques, of a story in which I’d gotten facts wrong, wanting to pack my byline into a lead-lined case and slip out the back door. But a few days later he was offering helpful suggestions for my next story. With him, this truth was implicit: writing is a craft, none of us is beyond making mistakes, and certainly none of us is above being called on it.

He stood out for other reasons. Unlike the Washington journalists, who all but wore cufflinks inscribed with their I.Q.s, Carr never needed people to think that he was the smartest guy in the room. He could be self-deprecatingly funny. He was substantially bigger then than he was in later years, and he occasionally left the office on his bicycle, calling himself “the fat guy on the bike.”

The recognition he achieved at the Times didn’t diminish his capacity for clear-eyed critique of himself or others. When more than a dozen new allegations of sexual assault were launched at Bill Cosby, Carr took himself to task in print for not having paid more attention to the earlier claims in a profile he’d written. Much has been made of the unyielding honesty of his memoir, but few recall that he published that journalistic investigation of his own life at a point when autobiography was increasingly indistinguishable from fiction. His pursuit of veracity not only spoke to his own character but implicitly damned the work that had fallen far short of that standard. I only once saw him refer in print to his success at bringing more diversity to the City Paper masthead, and that was in an article in which he cautioned the industry against doing away with internship programs. He wrote:

Unfortunately, creating meaningful internships and funding them seems like a low priority for an industry that is in a knife fight to survive. But if magazines are going to be anything other than gossamer artifacts of declining interest, the people who run them might want to rethink how they employ their interns. Bringing on young people from all kinds of backgrounds is less a moral nicety than a business imperative.
This is classic Carr—the uncommon phrasing “gossamer artifacts of declining interest” used to relay an unsentimental truth. Just a few days ago, he broke with the hosannas that accompanied the news of Jon Stewart’s departure from The Daily Show to offer his opinion that the show had been fraying around the edges for years. Many shared this thought, but it took Carr to write it, with none of the hostility or recrimination that so often accompanies unpleasant truths.

After leaving the City Paper, I didn’t maintain close contact with Carr, but when I’d written myself into a corner or found myself intimidated by an assignment, I frequently fell back upon what I’d learned from him. In one of his more notable generosities back in Washington, he purchased copies of Joseph Mitchell’s “Up in the Old Hotel” for the entire staff. He signed mine, “To Jelani, This will show you the way.” Not quite. That was a distinction that belonged largely to him.
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