Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Mentor I Never Had: David Carr

new york times image, david carr
"Keep typing until it turns into writing."

In 2012, I stood outside The New York Times Building twice. I was wandering through silver streets and my hands were rigid from the bleakest chill of January, but I found it. Both days were bone achingly bitter, and both days I walked away, marching further into the cold.

The New York Times represented the win to me, it embodied the endgame. It was credibility, and it was the castle of the masters. To me, The New York Times was the dream. To me, It was David Carr stood outside it's front doors, fingers clamped around a white cigarette. Twice I stood there, wondering if he had done so too that day. Twice I was too afraid to walk inside. I hoped that ambition would be my anchor, and that it would bring me back. I believed I'd follow my love of a story back to the city one day, and that day would be when I would make it. Then I would finally get the chance to hear his words firsthand. It wasn't my time.

The truth is that I didn't have the hustle, or the guts. And now I'll never get the chance to hear him tell me so.

Those who have met David Carr have remembered him tenderly, following his sudden passing this week. They all have one thing in common- they all search for the right words to say on the frantic hunt to do him justice. But no one could do Carr better than Carr. He was a brilliant newsman, an acute storyteller and an essential voice in a time that has us all screaming octaves over one another. He shared his harrowing past with people he had never met, and everybody felt like they knew him somehow.

I won't pretend to have known him, or to feel the tremendous anguish that the collective voice howls into the internet arena. He was not my teacher, or my friend. But I will tell you this, he was crucial to journalism. He did change the lives of everyone who ever met him, and he did matter to everyone who studied his words every Monday morning. Spectators and protegees, they all feel the same kind of sorrow.

My phone buzzed on the side of my sofa on Friday, and I stared at it for a while. I felt devastated for his daughters, and for his wife. I felt desperately numb for his protegees like Brian Stelter. I felt lost for the aspiring journalists, who would never know this man. 

Everybody has a David Carr story, but I don't. That's okay though, because I've found a treasure trove of them. The glory of a writer is that you can never truly die, and you will be survived by words, long after you've written them or had them written about you. I've winced because I've realised that there will be never be another David Carr story. 

I like to think that if he could have spread his wisdom to all of us, that he would have. 

I like to think he would have had an extended play of his raspy soliloquies for us, the next league of wordsmiths and truth seekers. 

He was described as "the most human of humans", and he was on the right team. He fought for journalism every single day.

Sometimes, if I'm lacking inspiration, motivation or sometimes both, my partner will ask me "Do you want me to put that writing film on?" That writing film is Page One, of course. The film that got me through my dissertation, and the film that reaffirmed my love for the craft.

Before I watched Page One, I had never shared my writing. It was his courage that struck me, and something about his execution of journalism that took the wind out of me. I needed to tell stories, and there wasn't enough time left to do it. 

David Carr was a stranger to me. David Carr is the man I never met, but he was the one who gave me words I never knew how to say.