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Bill Carter, a New York Times television writer for 25 years until he left in late 2014, was a longtime friend of David Carr, the Times media columnist who died at 58 on Thursday. Here he pens a tribute to his former colleague.
Virtually the entire newsroom staff of the New York Times — and a corps of alumni — turned out for a chorus of emotional tributes to David Carr Friday, held in the well of the masthead desks on the third floor of the paper’s headquarters, the location most identified with the annual announcement of Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists. I can’t think of many others I have known in more than 25 years at that place who would have inspired that kind of outpouring of attention, affection — and respect. I understand why: David Carr was a giver, as generous a colleague — and friend — as you could ever hope to have.
What set David apart was more than his unique voice (in both senses of the word), his brilliant writing skills, or his singular personality, which was self-effacing, self-promoting and entirely selfless all at the same time. What always struck me was the purity of his humanity. This was a guy who had peered over the rim of damnation and pulled himself back. That accounted for his infectious joie de vivre; his lack of tolerance for hypocrisy of any kind; his unapologetic pride in working in a place that respected the highest standards of journalism (because he did); as well as his soul-deep bond with the women in his life, his wife and three daughters. You rarely got past David without hearing a tale of some extraordinary accomplishment from one of those four that had him plastering on that jester’s grin.
He was an old-fashioned newspaper man with unbridled enthusiasm for the disruptions of inventive new forms of journalism — as long as they didn’t undermine the essential work of the employer he genuinely loved to work for. They used to call the dedicated sloggers of newspaper work “ink-stained wretches.” David would have been OK with that wretch part; it fit his image (and his wardrobe.) But the ink part is getting more symbolic every day, a development David understood was folly to do anything but welcome. His personal story ended Thursday night with all the punch of a perfectly executed kicker — as we call the closing graph in a newspaper piece. After a full week of reporting and writing, he died right there in the newsroom, with his ink-stained boots on.
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