David Carr, the extraordinary New York Times media columnist, died on the job Feb. 12 at age 58, suddenly and unexpectedly. He was a reformed crack addict and street dealer with the faint, gravelly voice of a wino bumming a buck. Though he ordered only soft drinks, I can say no one looked more at home hunched over a dim-lit bar. He was a Raymond Carver character plopped into the Times’ Edith Wharton world.
A lot of people have pointed 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. I am happy to pay tribute to his brains and gifts, but I also want to put in a word for his enthusiastic work ethic. 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.
“The trick,” he wrote in his memoir, The Night of the Gun, is to enjoy the second chance “and hope the caper doesn’t end anytime soon.” If the caper ended too soon for him and for his readers, it was a doozy while it lasted.
–DAVID VON DREHLE
This appears in the March 09, 2015 issue of TIME.