The new leaner, meaner, more melancholy Reader has come in for a little sympathy from New York Times media writer David Carr. A former editor of the Reader‘s sister paper in Washington, D.C., the Washington City Paper, Carr’s Monday column tells the story of the Reader‘s devastating layoffs last week (City Paper took the same kind of beating) by focusing on John Conroy, one of the four writers dismissed here. Last week, after the city of Chicago reached settlement agreements with four men who had accused its police officers of torturing them, Conroy received a note that may have given him some consolation. It said:

“My son, Aaron Patterson, tortured by the Chicago Police Department, would not be alive today, I believe, without your articles about police torture in the City of Chicago. You documented and wrote the realization of police torture, of which we will never forget. You help save my son’s life for which I thank you.”

Letters like that don’t pay the doctor’s bills, but they make it easier for an out-of-work investigative reporter to manage a decent night’s sleep. Under journalism’s new business model, Carr broods, “the newsroom is no longer the core purpose of media, it’s just overhead,” and he observes, “Thousands of bloggers could type for a millennium and not come up with the kind of deeply reported story that freed innocent men.”

The other three writers that the Reader let go last week are Tori Marlan, Steve Bogira, and Harold Henderson, whom the Reader billed as “the world’s first blogger” and who will continue blogging offsite. Given the circumstances, Harold has done something remarkably gracious: on his new blog he’s posted a link to the Web site of Reader contributor Lee Sandlin, and urged his readers to go there and read Sandlin’s tribute to this paper’s “currently embattled editor.” That’s Alison True, who under a cost-slashing mandate from the new owners, Creative Loafing of Tampa, Florida, executed last week’s massacre. She’s taking a beating for that — but read what Sandlin has to say.