David Carr, a writer who wriggled away from the demon of drug addiction to become an unlikely name-brand media columnist at The New York Times, and the star of a documentary about the newspaper, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 58.
Carr collapsed in the office’s newsroom, where he was found shortly before 9 pm. He was taken to St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Earlier in the evening, he moderated a panel discussion about the film ‘Citizenfour’ with its principal subject, Edward Snowden; the film’s director, Laura Poitras; and Glenn Greenwald, a journalist.
Carr wrote about cultural subjects for The Times; he initiated the feature known as The Carpetbagger, a regular report on the news and nonsense from the red carpet during awards season. He championed offbeat movies like ‘Juno’, with Ellen Page, and he interviewed stars both enduring and evanescent — Woody Harrelson, Neil Young, Michael Cera.
More recently, however, he was best known for The Media Equation, a Monday column in The Times that analyzed news and developments in publishing, television, social media — for which he was an early evangelist — and other mass communications platforms. His plain-spoken style was sometimes blunt, and searingly honest. The effect was both folksy and sophisticated, a voice from a shrewd and well-informed sceptic. “We want our anchors to be both good at reading the news and pretending to be in the middle of it,” he wrote on Monday in the wake of revelations that NBC anchor Brian Williams had lied about being in a helicopter under fire in Iraq in 2003. “That’s why, when the forces of man or Mother Nature whip up chaos, both broadcast and cable news outlets are compelled to ship the whole heaving apparatus to far-flung parts of the globe, with an anchor as the flag bearer. We want our anchors to be everywhere, to be impossibly famous, globe-trotting, hilarious, down-to-earth, and above all, trustworthy. It’s a job description no one can match.”
In a statement, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr, The Times’s publisher and chairman said: “David Carr was one of the most gifted journalists who has ever worked at The New York Times. He combined formidable talent as a reporter with acute judgment to become an indispensable guide to modern media. But his friends at The Times and beyond will remember him as a unique human being — full of life and energy, funny, loyal and lovable.”
Dean Baquet, The Times’s executive editor, informed the staff of Carr’s death in an email on Thursday night.
Carr, he wrote, “was the finest media reporter of his generation, a remarkable and funny man who was one of the leaders of our newsroom”. Baquet added: “He was our biggest champion, and his unending passion for journalism and for truth will be missed by his family at The Times, by his readers around the world and by people who love journalism.”
Carr’s rise at The Times is all the more remarkable for the depths from which he rose. As he chronicled in his 2008 memoir, ‘The Night of the Gun’, by the late 1980s, he was addicted to crack cocaine and living with a woman who was a drug dealer and the mother of his twin daughters.