Saturday, February 14, 2015

R.I.P. David Carr

Writer and media critic, David Carr, died Thursday night at the age of 58:
Mr. Carr collapsed in the Times newsroom, where he was found shortly before 9 p.m. He was taken to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. [...] Mr. Carr wrote about cultural subjects for The Times; he initiated the feature known as The Carpetbagger, a regular report on the news and nonsense from the red carpet during awards season. He championed offbeat movies like “Juno,” with Ellen Page, and he interviewed stars both enduring and evanescent — Woody Harrelson, Neil Young, Michael Cera. More recently, however, he was best known for The Media Equation, a Monday column in The Times that analyzed news and developments in publishing, television, social media — for which he was an early evangelist — and other mass communications platforms. His plain-spoken style was sometimes blunt, and searingly honest about himself. The effect was both folksy and sophisticated, a voice from a shrewd and well-informed skeptic.

(He made his last television appearance just Wednesday night on Anderson Cooper 360 discussion the fallout over fellow journalists Brian Williams's recent scandal.)

For all Carr's acclaim, he had flaws. Huge ones. He was an admitted abuser and addict, something that, I wouldn't say has been glossed over, but Carr was somehow allowed to be fallible in an era where the slightest indiscretion can ruin a career. Freddie DeBoer has a nuanced take on the permission granted to Carr to simply foul up:
I personally have no reason at all to question the popular narrative of Carr’s life and death. I simply want to point out: one of the crimes that Carr was guilty of, during his years as an addict, was serial domestic violence. That’s a matter of public record, of his own recording. And I will further say that this is one of those crimes that is usually treated, by the amorphous but powerful group that polices norms online, as unforgivable. For most public people, having repeatedly beaten women would be the end of their good reputation, no matter if it was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, no matter how many years ago it happened in the past. More, many of the people who would enforce that damage to reputation are the same who mourn Carr now. Again, some people will assume I’m saying that Carr’s reputation should be similarly damaged. I’m not. I’m just observing a discrepancy, and asking: what makes this person, in this time, exempt from the usual rules?
I wish I could come up with a simple answer other than Carr's profile was never high among the Twitter moral brigade. In a lot of ways, Carr was tied to an older journalism that made him somewhat anonymous in the pop culture conscious in a way that, say, Brian Williams wasn't.