David Carr, prolific journalist, University alumnus, dead at 58

by John Thomas

One of the nation’s most prolific journalists, University of Minnesota alumnus David Carr , died Thursday night. He was 58.

Carr was best known in Minnesota media as the editor of the Twin Cities Reader , an alternative weekly that shuttered in 1997.

He went on to write for a number of prominent national newspapers, culminating in a storied tenure at The New York Times as a media columnist.

He got his start at the Reader in the early 1980s, but wouldn’t become its editor until he recovered from a drug addiction. He documented this period with poise and wit in his book “The Night of the Gun”, in which he reported on his own life using the same methods he employed as a journalist.

David Brauer , columnist at Minneapolis’ Southwest Journal, met Carr when they waited tables together at the Anchorage,  a now-closed sea food restaurant in northeast Minneapolis during the late 1970s into the early 1980s.

“David was somebody who both demonstrated that fearlessness and that guts, but he was also, frankly, on my ass to get me to do it,” Brauer said of Carr. “There’s a certain level of guts you have to have, tolerating real uncomfortableness, to make your work really, really good.”

The two became fast friends, Brauer said, and worked together for a number of years.

“We did a lot of drugs, we skipped a lot of classes, we were much more interested in writing as a craft than we were studying it,” Brauer said. “He stood for journalism as a craft, not as a science, not as something you could study.”

Carr became one of the most visible faces of the Times when he was spotlighted in the 2011 documentary "Page One: Inside The New York Times."

“He was a mediocre student, but when it came to his work, he was one of the best,”said Chris Ison, a University journalism assistant professor who knew Carr in college and professionally. “He had the great ability to uncover a series of events, and interpret the most important meaning from them.”

When it came to his work at the Times, Ison said Carr “knew how to pick his spots,” finding the leads that told larger stories about the media landscape.

“He was always a writer who wrote like he talked,” Brauer said, “and he talked great.”