behind the news

What’s in My…

David Carr's powerful backpack
February 29, 2012

David Carr, veteran newspaperman and indie-film star (Page One), can’t quite remember the year he started his career at The Twin Cities Reader in Minneapolis (it was 1982), but he can say with confidence: “This backpack contains more firepower than the entire newsroom that I walked into” back then. To prove it, he unpacked.

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“In a multimedia age, you gotta have a lot of doodads,” Carr explains. These include (1) his Lumix camera, which records both audio and video; (2) a digital audio recorder, “in case somebody says they didn’t say what I said they said”; and an iPod “so old it probably was leased from Fred Flintstone. There’s like 8,000 songs on here.” His phone is (3) a BlackBerry, emblazoned with his name in case he loses it. “It’s nice to be able to type into it,” he says. He used to lug “a very heavy laptop,” but now gets by with only his iPad, “the reporter’s friend. It’s not great for writing stories, but I can pull it off if I have to. And because it has 3G, I can find almost anything I need.” To support his technology, he also packs (4) an array of connectors and cords. “And never, ever, ever get caught without the extra battery for your phone.”

He still carries (5) several old-fashioned tools of the trade: pens, a file folder, a reporter’s notebook. “Just so you know: This is an operating system, the pen and notebook—almost never fails. Almost never has a software problem.”

He’s ready for any weather with (6) an umbrella, (7) gloves, sunglasses (plus a spare pair of regular specs), a wool hat, and a baseball cap (“This one happens to be from Bob’s Bait”). And he always packs (8) food (a granola bar), gum, Rolaids, dental floss, a cough drop (“in case you’re in a court proceeding and you start coughing”), and Nicorette (“for when I get trapped without ciggies”). Because he was on his way home when this photo was taken, he’s got (9) lots of reading material (the Seventeen is for his daughter), including galleys of a Tom Perrotta novel, “just to show that I’m not just a total news nerd.”

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The single most important item? “You always, always, always want to have (10) a lanyard in your pack,” he says. “Because let’s say I’m going to go cover Occupy Wall Street. For a street reporter to be able to clip ID on is really, really important. Seems like a small thing but it can be a big thing.”

Watch David Carr root through his backpack in the video below.

Video by Granny Cart Productions. Follow them on Twitter @GrannyCart.

The Editors are the staffers of the Columbia Journalism Review.