A Reporter's Reporter

New York Times columnist David Carr’s forthcoming addiction memoir The Night of the Gun, the carefully reported—that is, not vaguely remembered and pieced together—tour de force that was excerpted on the cover of The New York Times Magazine this past weekend, features lots and lots of minor characters. Dealers, cops, girlfriends, pals, fellow junkies—they all pass in and out, some staying in Mr. Carr’s bumpy orbit for years and others sticking around only as long as they needed to.

One of these minor characters is a guy named “DonJack,” who comes up a couple of times over the course of the book but never really comes to life. All we know by the end is that he helped Mr. Carr with the book—he’s a reporter, Mr. Carr reveals, whom he hired to come behind him whenever he hit a brick wall and “further investigate what [he] couldn’t find out” on his own. No last name is given at any point, not even in the acknowledgments: just DonJack, and that’s it.

The guy didn’t even know he was in the book when Pub Crawl reached him by e-mail this week. “So, I guess Carr must have given me an acknowledgment?” he wrote back. “I haven’t actually seen the book yet … he’s mailing one out to me now.”

Turns out DonJack is 52-year-old Donald Jacobsen, currently living in St. Paul, Minn., and filing stories for the UPI wire. He was in graduate school at the University of Minnesota, working as an editor at the college paper, when he met Mr. Carr in 1986. Mr. Carr at the time was a staff writer at the Twin Cities Reader.

“I first met him at a party attended by Minn. Daily writers and photogs,” Mr. Jacobsen said in his e-mail. “Carr was, not to put too fine a point on it, drunk off his ass and looking to score drugs. And he had stopped by on his way to cover the Minnesota Republican State Convention. Wow. That took guts, I thought. Facing an arena full of Midwestern Republicans when you’re high as a kite. Very, very rock ’n’ roll… I was impressed.”

The two re-met each other in the early ’90s, after Mr. Carr stopped using cocaine and crack. At that point he hired Mr. Jacobsen to do some legwork on a couple of freelance magazine pieces.

“He went on to edit the Reader, then Washington City Paper, then went to The Times,” Mr. Jacobsen said. “I was a reporter for UPI in Chicago for most of the ’90s, did a lot of freelance business writing, and was the editor of the Minnesota Real Estate Journal until just recently. Last year Carr told a mutual friend that was looking for some help in Minneapolis to nail down some of the last remaining issues he was having in his ‘self-reporting’ efforts for NOTG, and she recommended that he get back in touch with me. He did, and once again I found myself working for David.”

lneyfakh@observer.com

A Reporter's Reporter