TIME

David Carr’s Grand Caper

The reporter, who died Thursday, was a Raymond Carver character plopped into the New York Times’ Edith Wharton world

David Carr was the most unlikely New York Times superstar. It’s a great newspaper, no doubt about it, but let’s face it: The Times is the sort of place known to employ people with two last names. Harrison Salisbury. Fox Butterfield. McCandlish Phillips. A paper, as the late Ben Bradlee used to say contemptuously, with “four f-cking dance critics.” It is said that the late R.W. Apple Jr. traveled with his personal pepper grinder in his luggage, lest he be trapped on assignment with improperly seasoned food.

Carr, the Times media columnist who died on the job Thursday at 58, suddenly and unexpectedly, was a reformed crack addict and street dealer with the faint gravel voice of a wino bumming a buck. In cold weather, he favored the sort of overcoat you could picture being passed out by missionaries from the back of a truck. Though he ordered only soft drinks, I can say no one looked more at home hunched over a dim-lit bar, the kind where Cutty Sark is a premium brand. He was a Raymond Carver character plopped into the Times’ Edith Wharton world.

A lot of people will point today to Carr’s intelligence and talent — and properly so. He was wonderful at translating the patter of media sales-talk into the argot of real life, a skill that requires a lot of brainpower. No one ever brushed past David’s BS detector mumbling “platform agnostic” or “digital first.”

MORE: Read TIME’s Review of Carr’s Memoir, The Night of the Gun

And he had that noted quality of a fine mind: the ability to grasp two competing ideas simultaneously. He understood — and embraced — the tidal power of social media without losing sight of virtues from the past. David was a reporter, not a pundit; he explained rather than preached, and almost uniquely he saw the entire horizon. It wasn’t just journalism that was being shattered and remade on his watch. It was every form of human communication.

I am happy to pay tribute to his brains and gifts, but I want to put in a word also for his enthusiastic work ethic. Journalism is a young person’s game; the years between 22 and 30 are like the trampling scrum outside Walmart on Black Friday. David Carr spent those years spiraling down into a pit most of us are lucky never to see. He wrote about it in his memoir, The Night of the Gun. It’s worth reading even after I give away the most shocking moment: the night David strapped his infant twins into their car seats and drove to a crack house, where he left them at the curb while he went inside to get high.

It’s no small thing to claw a path upward from that low point to a star-turn as the face of the New York Times — which was Carr’s role in the acclaimed documentary Page One. The hidden ingredient was stupendous effort. The man did his homework. If a trench needed digging, he grabbed a shovel. In his early years at the Times, David wrote for every page, every section, uncomplainingly. He became the paper’s biggest cheerleader and one of its most original voices. The bosses wanted a blog — he blogged the Oscars. The bosses wanted video — he shambled in front of a handheld camera. The bosses wanted live events — he slipped on a necktie and made himself an emcee.

MORE: David Carr, Influential New York Times Columnist, Has Died at 58

Most of all, he covered his beat like a blanket, expanding the traditional role of the media critic to include every gust and swirl of the digital tempest. David was the John Reed of this particular revolution, documenting and participating at the same time. For many of his fans, Carr’s death was unbelievable because he was Tweeting and live-streaming right up to his final breath.

Was he his own favorite subject? Yes — but who could blame him? David was great copy, as the old newsmen say. Understanding the sinews of a good story, Carr relished the dramatic arc of his pit-to-peak biography.

But even at his most self-absorbed, he had a winning sense of wonder and gratitude for the way his life had turned out. David Carr believed in a God of second chances, and he accepted without question that he was among this God’s favorites. With his twins safely grown to young adulthood; with his beautiful wife and the daughter they had together; with his bully pulpit at the Times and his all-access pass to the glittering world of media and celebrity, David Carr was the Prodigal Son 10 times over. Feasting on the fatted calf of divine grace, every day was thanksgiving.

“The trick,” he once said, is to enjoy the second chance, “and hope the caper doesn’t end anytime soon.” He kept up his end of that equation, to the delight and profit of his readers and friends. And if the caper ended too soon for him and for us, it was a doozy while it lasted.

Read next: Remembering David Carr, Media Critic and Media Lover

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TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 6

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. To salvage democracy in Afghanistan, leaders must make the next election really work.

By Tabish Forugh in Foreign Policy

2. In a U.S. first, New Orleans finds homes for all its homeless veterans.

By Noelle Swan in the Christian Science Monitor

3. As rich nations plan the next decade’s agenda for global development, they must bring human rights and accountability to the fore.

By the United Nations News Centre

4. Science and the media need each other. They just don’t know it yet.

By Louise Lief in the Wilson Quarterly

5. This simple Lego contraption allows scientists to safely handle insects.

By Emily Conover in Science

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 27

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Political differences aren’t the problem in America. It’s our fierce intolerance of political differences.

By Clive Crook in Bloomberg View

2. Instead of burying carbon emissions underground, a new plan converts it to minerals for longer-lasting, safer storage.

By Andy Extance in Slate

3. As more states and communities give ex-cons a fair chance at employment, the momentum is building for action by the White House.

By Lydia DePillis in the Washington Post

4. Games inspire deeper engagement and interaction. Can we gamify the news?

By Lene Bech Sillesen in Columbia Journalism Review

5. It’s time to reimagine youth sports in America with an eye on inclusion and health.

By Tom Farrey in the Aspen Idea Blog

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 26

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. We spent more than $170 billion on the wars they fought for us. Can we spend $5 billion to give veterans a guaranteed income?

By Gar Alperovitz in Al Jazeera America

2. A ‘teaching hospital’ model could work for journalism education by making students work collectively to produce professional results.

By Adam Ragusea at Neiman Lab

3. Humans are born with an intimate understanding of pitch, rhythm, and tone. We’re all musical geniuses.

By Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis in Aeon

4. WarkaWater Towers — which produce up to 25 gallons of water out of fog and dew every day — could change lives in drought-stricken countries.

By Liz Stinson in Wired

5. Private sector investment savvy and funds can help us tackle poverty’s toughest challenges. It’s time for impact investing.

By Anne Mosle in The Hill

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 22

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Want to improve your bottom line? Diversify your workplace.

By Joann S. Lublin in the Wall Street Journal

2. Journalism shouldn’t be a transaction for communities. A local news lab can make it transformational.

By Josh Stearns in Medium

3. The spike of hysteria about artificial intelligence could threaten valuable research.

By Erik Sofge in Popular Science

4. A new vision for securing work and protecting jobs can ensure stability in the face of rising automation.

By Guy Ryder at the World Economic Forum

5. Purchasing carbon offsets is easy. With carbon ‘insetting,’ a business folds sustainable decisions into the supply chain.

By Tim Smedley in the Guardian

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME France

Charlie Hebdo Journalists Begin Work on Next Issue

Editor-in-chief of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo Gerard Briard (R), lawyer Richard Malka (L) and financial director Eric Portheault gather at the headquarters of French newspaper Liberation on Jan. 9, 2015 in Paris as editorial staff of the French satirical newspaper gather following the deadly attack that occurred on Jan. 7 by armed gunmen on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo.
Bertrand Guay—AFP/Getty Images Editor-in-chief of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo Gerard Briard (R), lawyer Richard Malka (L) and financial director Eric Portheault gather at the headquarters of French newspaper Liberation on Jan. 9, 2015 in Paris as editorial staff of the French satirical newspaper gather following the deadly attack that occurred on Jan. 7 by armed gunmen on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo.

Will print 1 million copies of new, eight-page issue for next week

Journalists and cartoonists who survived Wednesday’s massacre at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo went back to work Friday, to put out a new issue of the weekly paper.

A total of 25 journalists gathered at the headquarters of left-leaning daily newspaper Libération to start work on an eight-page issue that is set to be printed 1 million times for a Wednesday distribution. Charlie Hebdo’s normal circulation is about 30,000, according to the New York Times, and usually runs to 16 pages.

Attackers killed eight members of the magazine’s staff in Wednesday’s attack, including editor-in-chief Stéphane Charbonnier. Another senior editor was reportedly in London at the time of the attack.

Richard Malka, a lawyer for Charlie Hebdo, ushered the journalists into a special office set up for them at Libération before addressing the media waiting outside. “We are touched by your being here and your support but we have an issue to create in the conditions that you know,” he said, according to Libération. “We need to meet in private. What we have to say, we’ll say it in eight pages. The strength and the heart we have left, we’ll put it in these eight pages. What’s urgent now is this next issue of Charlie Hebdo.”

Prime Minister Manuel Valls met with journalists to “offer solidarity” and encourage them to get back to work. “The strongest response is to say, ‘let’s continue,'” he said.

 

TIME Sports

A Look Back at the Life of ESPN Anchor Stuart Scott

Stuart Scott passed away Sunday morning after a seven-year battle with cancer

TIME Obesity

Law Enforcement Is the Fattest Profession, Study Finds

Policeman in office, portrait
Getty Images

Along with firefighters and security guards

Police officers, firefighters and security guards have the highest rates of obesity of all professions, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

According to the Journal, 40.7% of police, firefighters and security guards are obese. Other jobs with high obesity rates include clergy, engineers and truckers.

On the other side of the obesity scale is a grouping of economists, scientists and psychologists, with an obesity rate of 14.2%. Other professions with low obesity rates are athletes, actors and reporters.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal

TIME Crime

66 Journalists Killed in 2014: Report

MYANMAR-MEDIA-RIGHTS-POLITICS-COURT
Soe Than Win—AFP/Getty Images Burmese journalists wear T-shirts that say "Stop Killing Press" during a silent protest for five journalists who were jailed for 10 years on July 10, near the Myanmar Peace Center where Burmese President Thein Sein was scheduled to meet with local artists in Rangoon on July 12, 2014.

Media activists say attacks on journalists are becoming increasingly barbaric

At least 66 journalists were killed across the globe this year while another 178 media workers were imprisoned, according to industry monitoring outlet Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

While the number of journalists’ deaths fell slightly when compared to 2013 figures, the high-profile beheadings of Western and Arab reporters by militant Jihadists in the Middle East marked a gruesome escalation in the types of violence employed against the Fourth Estate.

“Rarely have reporters been murdered with such a barbaric sense of propaganda, shocking the entire world,” said the watchdog organization in their annual report published on Tuesday.

RSF also noted that the number of kidnapping cases skyrocketed dramatically in 2014 with 119 journalists reportedly being abducted, a 37% increase year-on-year.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 3

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The Obamas should consider teaching in an urban public school after 2016.

By Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post

2. Tech journalism needs to grow up.

By Michael Brendan Dougherty in The Week

3. Despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, the surge strategy didn’t end the war in Iraq. We shouldn’t try it again against ISIS.

By Daniel L. Davis in The American Conservative

4. Adjusting outdated rules for overtime could give middle class wages a valuable boost.

By Nick Hanauer in PBS News Hour’s Making Sense

5. A new solar power device can collect energy even on cloudy days and from reflected lunar light.

By Tuan C. Nguyen in Smithsonian Magazine

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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