David Carr dies at 58; sharp, irreverent New York Times writer

David Carr, a New York Times reporter and columnist known for his irreverent, penetrating takes on the news business and the disruptions wrought by the Internet, died Thursday. He was 58.

Carr collapsed at the newspaper’s offices in Manhattan and died at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, the New York Times said.

“He was the finest media reporter of his generation, a remarkable and funny man who was one of the leaders of our newsroom,” Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet said in a memo to the staff. “He was our biggest champion, and his unending passion for journalism and for truth will be missed by his family at The Times, by his readers around the world, and by people who love journalism.”

Carr had written about the media for 25 years. Before joining the New York Times in 2002, he had been a contributing writer for The Atlantic Monthly and New York magazine, a media writer for the entertainment website, and the editor of alternative weeklies in Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis.

At The Times, he was a business reporter and wrote a weekly column called the Media Equation, a lively chronicle of developments in print and digital media, film, radio and television.


“David was always honest, always smart, always tough, whether he was writing about CNN or — even better — the New York Times, his own employer,” recalled former New York Times business editor Lawrence Ingrassia, now associate editor of the Los Angeles Times. “He loved a good tussle with a subject, but he also was always fair, always generous.”

In his 2008 memoir, “The Night of the Gun,” Carr bared the ugly details of his addiction to drugs and alcohol, and described his eventual recovery.

Carr interviewed friends to reconstruct his descent, and detailed how he had been arrested for beating up a cabdriver, and how he smoked crack cocaine while his pregnant girlfriend went into labor before giving birth to twin daughters.

“I think the person who was the least ready was me,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. Even though he knew the story intimately, he recalled, “I had no idea what I’d done…. I had no idea how dark this book was. I think of myself as a daddy who sobered up and got custody of his kids.... So I wasn’t really ready for the fact that I had cast myself as a thug.”

Carr entered rehab in 1988 and went on to rebuild his career and win custody of his daughters. He suffered a relapse in 2005 and went into rehab again.

Carl Sessions Stepp, reviewing the book for the American Journalism Review, described it as “messy but unforgettable,” adding that “Carr writes with ingratiating candor.”

Carr’s enthusiasm for his work was infectious, and he tackled the demands of digital journalism with relish and unflagging energy.

“I think working in journalism beats having a real job,” he once said. “You make it as good as you can as fast as you can. You file on many platforms, you make video, you do the website, you write the story, you Twitter out what you’ve done, you do a blog post about what you’ve done, then you collapse, sleep for a while and then you get up and do it the next day.”

His slashing wit was on display in a recent column on the hacking of computer systems at Sony Pictures Enterprises, blamed on North Korea. He called the episode “a remarkable and disorienting turn of events: a tiny, failing state that lacks the wherewithal to feed its own people was deciding which movies we can and cannot see, while the industry it had attacked watched silently from the sidelines.”

Carr was born Sept. 8, 1956, in Minneapolis. A resident of Montclair, N.J., he is survived by his wife, Jill Rooney Carr; and three daughters.

Times staff writers Ryan Parker and Elaine Woo contributed to this report.