Reporters at the Twin Cities Reader, which David Carr edited in the mid-1990s, were expected to show up at meetings with good ideas, plural, for cover stories.
Carr sent half-baked pitches to the trash with his trademark “nah.”
Writers with a more promising story idea might hear Carr say, “you got something,” then experience the boss’ uncanny knack for seeing a potential winner in even the most tentative proposal for the alternative weekly newspaper.
He’d blurt out a headline, a few words that often would stick all the way through the reporting, writing, design and publication.
That instinct for finding and shaping a story served him well as he stampeded to the big time, first running a hefty alternative weekly in the shark-busy waters of Washington, D.C., and then, in 2002, joining the New York Times.
The Ivy Leaguers at the Gray Lady were (mostly) captivated by this rambunctious bumpkin, the profane, hilarious and ungainly Minnesotan who went on to write a weekly column about media in an era when that surely was the best beat in the house.
Carr’s fame increased when he “starred” in the 2011 documentary “Page One,” about the New York Times adapting to a changing world of journalism.
He rubbed elbows with Hollywood heavyweights and wrote “The Night of the Gun,” a “reported autobiography” that chronicled drugs, booze, capers, children, fights, rehab and revivification via journalism.
Sad and shocking though his early demise was, Carr made his final exit by gurney from a newsroom he loved.
What a great story.