David Carr: Leader of the pack

I did not know David Carr, but I was a fan and read him eagerly because he was so talented and hip. Despite his crusty look, I also sensed he meant to be a nice guy.

Hip to what was going on in our business and usually way out in front, it seemed. And hip because he had picked himself up, dusted himself off from earlier nose dives and worked his way to the top of the game.

He was obviously brilliant. I got mad at him when he referred in his Ben Bradlee tribute to the “big boys’ table” of journalism. But it probably was mostly jealously on my part as a career-long local newspaperman and, I’m guessing, partly a chip on his shoulder from coming out of the struggling, street-tough world of alternative weeklies to the tower of The New York Times.

But even at the Times, Carr seemed to have the guts — and apparently the freedom — to call things as he saw them. And even when he seemed worlds ahead of me, I sensed that he was a kind and caring man. Maybe it was the tweets about his daughters and home life, his obvious joy in teaching. But the fact that he never forgot or hid his darker background kept him eminently human and made me admire him more.

One of my favorite tweets last night, as his death at 58 was reported, came from his friend Jacob Weisberg: “David Carr’s special air was that of a man who got a second chance at life, and made sure as hell he wasn’t going to blow it this time.”

Then, there was another tweet from a colleague at the Times that reflected his courage and devotion to the job of journalism. He was a pro. Connor Ennis wrote: “Phone call w/David on Sunday. ‘I gotta be honest, I’m playing a little hurt,’ he said. “Then he delivered his usual home run column.”

I think so much admiration spilled forth from people in the business last night because Carr was clearly a shoe-leather reporter but also a worldly one, hip to the street and hip to the thinking in the fancy glass offices at the top of tall buildings. And he had the brains to take it all in, and the skill to write it in ways that informed and entertained. His talent could leave you breathless.

Bob Simon, who also died this week, seemed to be another reporters’ reporter. Sorry to obscure his work here. But, thankfully, many tributes about him also have poured forth from colleagues in this tough business, where it might take one to know one.

And I was encouraged to see that so many recognized and respected what Carr and Simon represented.

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