Professor Carl Sessions Stepp is a long-time contributor to AJR.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The tragic news that Journalism lost New York Times reporter and columnist David Carr this week takes us back to the American Journalism Review archives for a review of his 2008 memoir by Merrill College Professor Carl Sessions Stepp.
The LA Times says the book “bared the ugly details of his addiction to drugs and alcohol, and described his eventual recovery.” Professor Stepp called it “messy but unforgettable.”
From AJR, August/September 2008 Edition:
For most journalists, the route to the New York Times doesn’t generally include crack smoking, drug dealing, spouse beating and jail time. But all those activities preceded David Carr’s arrival in the big time.
Both enthralling and appalling, “The Night of the Gun” lays out in merciless detail Carr’s rise from Minnesota’s alternative papers to Times media columnist while wallowing in a dangerous double life.
Beyond the sensational story, fellow journalists will find something even more beneficial. Carr’s method – the re-reporting of his own life – provides a humbling study of the fallibility of memory, the elusiveness of truth and the futility of ever assuming you really know what’s going on. This should be eye-opening not just to memoir writers but to reporters investigating, say, the justification for a war.
Carr takes his title from an unsettling incident. One day in 1987 he gets fired from a Minnesota business magazine over his drinking and cocaine use. Carr pops some pills and meets a friend at a bar. They end up fighting. The friend goes home, but Carr calls and insists on coming over. The friend orders him to stay away, saying he has a gun. Carr shows up anyway. The friend comes to the door with the gun and calls the police, and Carr flees.
Read the entire review.