David Carr—the no-nonsense media reporter and columnist who, against all likelihood, became one of the faces of the modern New York Times—has died after collapsing in the paper’s Midtown Manhattan newsroom. He was 58.
Carr did not have a conventional backstory. A Minnesota native—born in Minneapolis, raised along Lake Minnetonka, educated at the University Of Minnesota, Twin Cities—and a veteran of alt-weeklies, Carr edited the now-defunct Twin Cities Reader and the Washington City Paper, joining the Times in his mid-40s. Early in his life, he became addicted to cocaine and later crack, and had effectively washed out of journalism—a period he would revisit in his 2008 memoir, The Night Of The Gun.
And yet, despite being “not what you would call the classic Timesman,” Carr came to represent the importance of old-fashioned journalistic values in a digital age. He was a savvy and skeptical observer of an increasingly technology-dependent media. He wrote about business, the Internet, the Oscars (he started the paper’s Carpetbagger blog), huge shake-ups at newspapers—pretty much anything that dealt with how and why people received information. His writing was authoritative, down-to-Earth, and tremendously influential.
As unlikely as Carr was as a Times icon, he was even more unlikely as a media star. With his whistly, scratchy smoker’s voice and distinct posture—leaned far back, with his head tilted forward so hard that his chin would press down into his chest—Carr didn’t look or sound like anyone’s idea of a gifted public speaker. Yet, he was a popular presence online, on camera, and at talks and panels, and served as the de facto star and conscience of Andrew Rossi’ documentary Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times. Hours before his death, Carr hosted a discussion of the Oscar-nominated Citizenfour, alongside Glenn Greenwald and a video-linked Edward Snowden.