Editor’s note: David Carr, the New York Times’ indefatigable media reporter, passed away suddenly last night in the Times newsroom. Moments earlier, Carr had moderated a conversation with Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras about the Oscar-nominated documentary “CITIZENFOUR.” It was hardly the first time Carr’s career entered the arena of the movies.
The energetic, raspy-voiced writer launched the Times’ popular “Carpetbagger” feature, which continues to distinguish its awards season coverage, and became a frequent presence on the film festival circuit. In 2010, Carr was one of the first journalists from a mainstream outlet to write about Lena Dunham after “Tiny Furniture” won the Grand Jury Prize at the SXSW Film Festival. Later, he brought her to the attention of Judd Apatow, effectively paving the way for HBO’s hit show “Girls.”
But in addition to covering the movies, Carr was actually the star of one. Andrew Rossi’s 2011 documentary “Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times” centers on Carr’s recurring efforts to keep the paper relevant in the midst of constant changes to the media landscape. Indiewire reached out to Rossi, who received unprecedented access to the Times’ newsroom for his movie, to discuss his relationship with Carr. The following essay was also provided to CNN.com.
Since the making of “Page One,” David Carr was one of my dearest friends. He could be at turns a fiercely loyal advocate and a shoulder to lean on, while at other times an aggressive and funny caller of your BS. But always he left you “touched” somehow with an insight or a phrase echoing in your mind that could enliven the rest of your day or maybe even set you off on a grand caper.
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That’s what happened when I visited David in the Times newsroom in 2009, when the idea of producing a documentary about the state of the media was hatched. He introduced me to his fellow media desk colleagues Bruce Headlam (then department editor), Brian Stelter and Tim Arango (now Bahgdad bureau chief) who all became part of an “old-style platoon movie” about journalists covering the disruption of their industry while fighting to keep it alive. David went to bat for me so I could gain access to shoot in the newsroom, and thus began an amazing journey.
Following David for two years was a master class not just in journalism but in so many other aspects of life: fatherhood, friendship, house party dancing, short order cooking and risk taking. He had a deep sense of what mattered to him (his family, his credibility, his craft), but he was willing to go out on a limb, and he was an early promoter of so many digital tools, even if he seemed like a stodgy defender of the old school to some in Silicon Valley. Yes, he wanted to protect the boots-on-the-ground reporting which heretofore relied on print advertising, but he celebrated the “self-cleaning oven” ethos of the web, and he believed in the destiny of the Times as a multi-media content creator, not a stack of paper which he readily predicted would become like vinyl records in the not so distant future.
The fact that David has passed so suddenly is incredibly sad, although as many know David struggled throughout his life with a series of challenges, from addiction to multiple forms of cancer and a panoply of other chapters in life, which he chronicled with emotion and exquisite self-awareness in his memoir, “Night of the Gun.”
It’s impossible to process the grief that his wife Jill and daughters Madde, Erin and Meagan must be feeling right now. He created with them a home in Montclair that was a joy to be a part of, and his extended family in Minneapolis are among the kindest and most open clan one could meet. The Carrs are infused with a spirit of civic engagement, belief in the underdog, love of music, film, writing and sports that will likely spawn generations of spectacular talent and accomplishment.
Everyone who was touched by David, either in person or through his perch at the Times and many outlets before, was the recipient of a gift. Even Vice’s CEO Shane Smith, the object of David’s sharp words defending the Times in “Page One,” will tell you that he came away from the encounter with a deep respect for David, a friendship, and – possibly – some new insight.
Among the best ways to honor David’s memory, I think, is to try to live as fully and truthfully and daringly as David did. How much life he had in just these fifty-eight years.
Rest in peace, friend.