Remembering David Carr

by John Dugan

It's entirely possible that without David Carr, I wouldn't have done as much writing and editing as I have over the past twenty years. I landed a gig as a production artist and ad designer at the City Paper in the mid-nineties. I started writing music pieces, previews and reviews with the encouragement of the arts editor Glenn Dixon, but it was Carr as new editor-in-chief who made me feel as if I could do more than pay off my endless D.C. parking tickets by penning record reviews and band profiles. Taken with a long review of a new Sloan record that City Paper had published, he asked me about my craft, how I wrote, what my process was. You could say I was flattered. I sensed that he did that with a lot of writers out of curiosity and enormous appetite for journo shop talk, but also to help them realize what was particular about their process. Carr was a master of the compliment. He offered up his jealousy for anyone such as I who could play in a band and write well. That's the kind of compliment you keep in your pocket forever, just in case you need it.

Carr was a  passionate fan of music, too. I liked to drink in his stories of wild times with the Replacements, Soul Asylum and Husker Du during his Minneapolis days.

He was also gracious in hearing criticism. I once met with him in his office to vent about some oddly nasty takedown pieces CP had published on local musicians. He respected my point of view as someone with friends in music, but defended the stories on the grounds that he liked the writer's voice. He was a writer's editor. 

Carr liked the idea of connecting people that might otherwise never cross paths. He invited me to start joining City Paper editorial meetings. Now, I wish I had attended more. He took me along for outings with writers, journalists and politicos. Once, after an AAN convention event, he somehow got a bunch of us into the Tibetan Freedom Concert after show at the 9:30 Club. Another night, he popped into the production room and introduced the staff to his buddy the comedian Tom Arnold who was sporting a George Hamilton-esque "I'm from Hollywood" glow.

When closing the issue on Wednesday nights, the editor was supposed to flip through the layout pages to be sent to the printer and sign off on them. In a loose CP tradition, the cover story writer brought in beer for the remaining edit staff, production artists and took a final look at their story. At some point, Carr got in the habit of asking me to sign off on the pages instead, which was interesting as I was drinking and he wasn't. It gave him a chance to visit with his family or jaw with the writer, but it also was like the captain standing on the deck saying Go ahead and take the wheel, this paper is as much yours as mine. David Carr treated a lot of us like first mates and that's something we'll never forget.