David Carr, renowned media critic and columnist at The New York Times, died Feb. 12 in New York. He was 58. According to the Times, Carr collapsed in the newsroom, where he was found shortly before 9 p.m.
“David Carr was one of the most gifted journalists who has ever worked at The New York Times,” said Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the newspaper’s publisher and chairman. “He combined formidable talent as a reporter with acute judgment to become an indispensable guide to modern media.”
With a writing style that was witty and serious, blunt and folksy, urbane and plain-spoken, Carr appealed to a wide audience that trusted him to get to the core of an issue. His weekly column, The Media Equation,” was a must-read for those looking for thoughtful and honest commentary on subjects ranging from free speech and Charlie Hebdo to NBC News anchor Brian Williams’s fallen star.
When editors of the French weekly defiantly put an image of a weeping Prophet Muhammad on the first cover since gunmen killed 10 of their colleagues, Carr defended press freedom, while deftly explaining the significance of newspapers.
“The copies of what has been called the ‘survivors’ issue’ of Charlie Hebdo are a physical reminder that freedom has costs and only survives through its exercise,” he wrote. “The current issue will become an heirloom — reminding future generations not only that there used to be such a thing as printed newspapers, but that there was a time when most of the world stood with France in their defense.”
Williams was the subject of Carr’s most recent Feb. 9 column: “As the evening news anchor, Mr. Williams possesses a rare combination of fame and trust, with each feeding off the other. But fame is slippery, morphing into infamy very quickly, as Mr. Williams discovered in four days of sustained pounding. Everyone loves a story about seeing the mighty fall, even if they are as fundamentally likeable as Mr. Williams. … As it turns out, his non-apology was not a safe haven, but a trap door, and his self-banishment was not a consequence, but a mistake.”
Before moving to New York and the Times in 2002, Carr was editor of Washington City Paper, an alternative weekly in Washington, D.C., that covered the city’s downtrodden and powerful. A throat cancer survivor and a former drug addict, he revealed the raw details of his life and addiction in “The Night of the Gun,” his best-selling 2008 memoir.
At the Times, Carr started out as a business reporter and later created the popular blog called “The Carpetbagger,” which continues to cover Hollywood’s awards scene and the red carpet.
The evening of his death, Carr moderated a panel discussion on the 2014 documentary “Citizenfour,” which tells the story of whistleblower Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency spying scandal.