I had just finished up an event at the downtown library last night and I turned my phone on and somehow David Carr was dead. The media world is right now full of touching memories of the man, and you should read as many as you can, because he was the real deal. I interviewed him onstage at the Douglass-Truth branch of the Seattle library back in 2008, when I first started as The Stranger's books editor. Carr had just published The Night of the Gun, a remarkable memoir in which the older Carr reports on the actions of the younger Carr, a seemingly hopeless drug addict and self-destructive loser. He was right in the middle of a long media tour for the book, which is a time when most authors kind of mentally check out. I was incredibly nervous, because I had maybe done two or three of these public events in my life, and Carr was a superstar newspaperman—maybe the last superstar newspaperman—who had come up through alternative weeklies. I was positive that he would automatically detect that I was a fraud, that I had no idea what I was doing.
And in retrospect, I'm sure he realized that I was new and that I didn't know what I was doing and that I was nervous as all hell. My questions were uninspired, and my stage manners, as always, were terrible. But he made me feel like I was doing a great job, and he spun my terrible questions into winning anecdotes that felt so fresh and alive you'd swear it was the first time he ever told them. It was an act of showmanship, of course, but it also felt like a tremendous act of kindness. After the event, he approached me on the street, and he shook my hand, and he told me that he appreciated sharing my audience with him, that the audience was there for me and he was grateful that I got the word out about his book. It was such a generous lie. He's one of the few authors I've ever talked with who was exactly as kind, and intelligent, and caring as he seemed on the page. I know days like these, when every blog you visit is full of appreciations of some writer you've never met or maybe never even heard of, can be tiring for people who aren't keyed into the media bubble. But I really think you should read as much as you can about David Carr. He was more than a great media figure. He was a great human being, and just reading about his life can make you want to be a better person.
Here's video from that 2008 reading at the Douglass-Truth library:
And if you haven't seen the documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times, you really should. It helped make Carr into the national figure that he was. I love this clip from the movie, where Carr tears apart the staff of VICE. They're puffing themselves up about doing "real journalism," and Carr knocks them down a peg. Sometimes we'll watch this clip around the office when we need to remember what our jobs should mean. It's great, too because you get to watch Carr at work. I love how thunderous his typing is, how it dominates the room.
And The Stranger newsroom has rarely experienced a prouder moment than this, in 2013, when David Carr praised The Stranger in a video conversation about alternative weeklies with AO Scott for being "a beautiful online paper, an exciting paper in print, still remarkable." Carr's seal of approval meant the world to us. We were glowing for weeks over his ten-second mention. His attention carried a rare power in the media, and he only ever used that power for good.