One of the first things he often says to sources is that the story is "likely to be big. What do you think the story is that I should tell?"
Historically, I had been a reporter who was very fond of making speeches and very fond of telling people what their stories were about," he says. "[As journalists], we're people who just show up and declare ourselves instant experts on all manner of stories. And we often are only taking a very blunt-force guess about what's going on, and I think it always behooves us to ask the people, especially if you're aspiring to do something good, 'What do you think is going on? What do you think this is about?' "
Carr tells his sources that they shouldn't expect a fluff piece; he doesn't want anyone to be genuinely surprised by what they find in his stories.
"I don't want to sit up in the middle of the night and wonder whether I was unfair to the person — that I didn't communicate to them what is coming," he says. "I don't want anybody to open up one of my stories and have their nose broken by what they read — although I do have to say, at the beginning of the week, I wrote a really mean column, and I didn't tell anybody involved, so I guess that's not always true."