Charlie LeDuff

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Charlie LeDuff
Portsmouth, Virginia
OccupationJournalist, author
NationalityUnited States
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Charlie LeDuff
Portsmouth, Virginia
OccupationJournalist, author
NationalityUnited States

Charlie LeDuff is a Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist, writer, and media personality who left The Detroit News in October 2010 after two years and joined Detroit Fox affiliate WJBK Ch. 2 to do on-air journalism.[1]



LeDuff is of Louisiana Creole and Ojibway descent, and was born in Portsmouth, Virginia.[2] His parents' marriage ended in divorce, and he has a deceased sister and stepbrother. His father served in the U.S. Navy. LeDuff has four surviving siblings. He has lived in many cities around the country and the world. Before joining The New York Times, LeDuff worked as a schoolteacher and carpenter in Michigan and a cannery hand in Alaska. He has also worked as a baker in Denmark.

LeDuff currently lives with his wife in Pleasant Ridge, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit. He considers himself a political independent, and is a practicing Roman Catholic. LeDuff is also a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa tribe of Michigan.[3]

Writing career

LeDuff's stated writing influences include the books Hop On Pop, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, Treasure Island, and writers Mickey Spillane, Raymond Carver, Joseph Mitchell, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, and Raymond Chandler.[2] Among writers in the newspaper business who influenced him, LeDuff lists Mike Royko, Jimmy Breslin, and Pete Hamill.


LeDuff was hired by the New York Times on a ten week minority scholarship.[2] He was a staff reporter at The Times from 1995 to 2007, ending his tenure as a member of the Los Angeles bureau. LeDuff, who had been on paternity leave, quit The Times to pursue the promotion of his second book, US Guys, according to a memorandum from Suzanne Daley, the national editor. The next day LeDuff said his rationale for leaving was more complicated, noting that he made an appointment with Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher and chairman of The Times, to say he would be leaving because, "I can't write the things I want to say. I want to talk about race, I want to talk about class. I want to talk about the things we should be talking about."

Of his professional career in newspapers, LeDuff states:

"I’m not a journalist, I’m a reporter. The difference between a reporter and a journalist is that a journalist can type without looking. The problem with journalism is its self-importance. Like in the New York Times, there’s style, guides; you can’t call a doctor a physician, you got to call him a doctor- too high falutin’. You can’t call an undertaker a mortician- too high falutin’; you got to call him an undertaker. You can’t call a lawyer an attorney, you have to call him a lawyer. But somehow, since we control it, and we’re very self-important people, you can call a reporter a journalist." [2]

LeDuff is best known for his contributions to the 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times series How Race Is Lived in America, and has also received a Meyer Berger Award for distinguished writing about New York City.

From August to November 2006, LeDuff wrote an eight-part series, American Album, whose topics included "a Latina from the rough side of Dallas" who "works the lobster shift at a Burger King," a Minuteman and an Alaska national guardsman believed to be the first Inuit, or Eskimo, killed because of the Iraq war. LeDuff has covered the war in Iraq, crossed the border with Mexican migrants, and chronicled a Brooklyn fire house in the aftermath of 9/11.


LeDuff has been accused of plagiarism and inaccurate quotations, to which he has responded.

A 1995 article[which?] for The East Bay Monthly was examined by Modern Luxury's San Francisco publication in a February 2004 article titled "Charlie Duff's Bay Area Secret" following suggestions that LeDuff had plagiarized elements of Ted Conover's book, Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails With America's Hoboes.[4][dead link][better source needed]

A January 18, 2003 article for the New York Times entitled "As an American Armada Leaves San Diego, Tears Are the Rule of the Day" was accused of featuring inaccurate quotations and depictions of two of the ten subjects interviewed, according to an article published in September 2003 by Marvin Olasky in the evangelical WORLD magazine. According to Olasky, Lieutenant Commander Beidler, a subject profiled with his wife in the man-on-the-street piece, recalled saying something else to LeDuff and believed the quotes and depictions of himself and his wife used were inaccurate and fabricated by Mr. LeDuff.[5] According to Olasky, Times senior editor Bill Borders wrote to Mr. Beidler, saying that he had "thoroughly looked into your complaint" and concluding "[Mr. LeDuff] thinks that he accurately represented his interview with you and your wife, and therefore so do I." [5]

A December 8, 2003 article for the New York Times entitled "Los Angeles by Kayak: Vistas of Concrete Banks" was accused of drawing from Blake Gumprecht's 1999 book The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth. One week later, on December 15, 2003, the New York Times appended an Editors' Note:

An article last Monday about the Los Angeles River recounted its history and described the reporter's trip downriver in a kayak. In research for the article, the reporter consulted a 1999 book by Blake Gumprecht, "The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth." Several passages relating facts and lore about the river distilled passages from the book. Although the facts in those passages were confirmed independently—through other sources or the reporter's first hand observation—the article should have acknowledged the significant contribution of Mr. Gumprecht's research.

Editors' Note, December 15, 2003

The clarification was later discussed by Slate and political commentator Michelle Malkin.[6][7]

A January 28, 2009 story for The Detroit News entitled "Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse" was examined by the Detroit Metro Times who pointed out some minor inconsistencies and confusion in the timeline of the events.[8] The Detroit Free Press also noted inconsistencies with LeDuff's portrayal of the police response and quotations LeDuff attributed to a police dispatcher.[9][dead link]

LeDuff discussed various accusations made against his reporting in a March 11, 2008 interview with essayist Dan Schneider.[10]

To set the record straight… If you make mistakes, you apologize. When I was at grad school, I was working on a documentary and I was also contracted to write a long, six thousand word piece… I borrowed some thoughts from a guy’s book… Not incidents, none of that, sort of light stuff… I made a mistake as a student and I apologized for it.

Later on, at the New York Times, it was post-Jason Blair…like a witch hunt. Everybody wanted to get everybody that worked there and I wasn’t really accused of plagiarism, but what I did was did not attribute some facts that I distilled from a book about the Los Angeles River which I kayaked, and all this went round and round and all of a sudden I was a fraud, I was a cheat, I was a minority who didn’t do his work, who got a break because of his background and it isn’t true...

All I’ve ever tried to do in life is tell the truth, work hard, document the undocumented. I’ve crossed the border with Mexicans, man, I worked in a slaughterhouse, I do what it takes, I don’t cheat… My problem with the Right Wing and the Left Wing… is they got so many facts wrong… the journalistic sin is: you write something about somebody, you man up, and you call them. So the facts are wrong… A commissioned officer in the Navy accused me of misquoting him, I don’t think I did. If I did, I apologized about it. You write a thousand, two thousand stories, it’s gonna happen.

I don’t fake quotes, I don’t fake stories, I don’t fake anything, man. I work hard… This is how I get people to talk to me, because I don’t lie about who I am, I don’t hang around the edges, I don’t mischaracterize myself for the business at hand. I’m straightforward and I’m trying to be a standup guy.

[ Dan Schneider Interview 9, Cosmoetica]

Other writings

LeDuff is the author of three books: US Guys: The True and Twisted Mind of the American Man, Work and Other Sins, and Detroit: An American Autopsy.

The preface of US Guys includes this quote on Leduff's view of the American male:

The American man has been taught that while it is better to avoid a fight; that honor cannot always be defended with reason. He should never admit fear. He should always strive to put the blade in his adversary’s chest, not his back. An American man should know how to load and fire a gun. He should know how to ride a horse, bet on a horse, bet on the stock market, and bet on the cards. A good man should know a woman’s body and know how to please her. His woman, in turn, should never speak anything but well of him in public. An American man should have been raised in the church, rejected the church and eventually found virtue in the church.
The American man should be educated. He should work. He should honor his debts and live within his means. He should be able to recite poetry and have bits of true philosophy at his fingertips. He should be able to play an instrument and know how to help a rose grow. An American man should know how to dress and speak his language well. He should be handy and mechanically inclined and yet his nails must be clean. A man should have children, and at some point his children should reject him. And in the course of his life, a man’s children should return and find virtue in him.
This is what an American man should be. Of course, no such man has ever existed, and no man probably ever will.

Television career

LeDuff worked on an experimental project for The Times with the Discovery Channel and produced a show called Only in America, which featured participatory journalism where LeDuff played on a semi-professional football team, raced with thoroughbreds, performed in a gay rodeo, joined the circus, preached in Appalachia, joined the elite world of New York models and played one play on special teams for the af2 football club, the Amarillo Dusters.

On July 14, 2006, LeDuff starred in and narrated a documentary on the British channel, BBC Four, called United Gates of America in which he experienced life with the mostly-white, Christian, and middle-class citizens of a gated community Canyon Lake in Riverside County, California.

As of December 2, 2010, LeDuff is a reporter for WJBK-TV, the Fox affiliate in Detroit, Michigan.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d The Dan Schneider Interview 9: Charlie LeDuff, Cosmoetica, 11 March 2008, accessed September 18, 2008.
  3. ^ Charlie LeDuff on Detroit - The Detroit News, accessed January 30, 3009
  4. ^ "Charlie Duff's Bay Area Secret", San Francisco Magazine, February 2004
  5. ^ a b Marvin Olasky (September 13, 2003). "New York state of mind". WORLD. God's World Publications. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  6. ^ The Same River Twice The New York Times gives credit where credit is due. Slate.
  7. ^ Another Jayson Blair? More of the same at the “Paper of Record.” Michelle Malkin, National Review, December 17, 2003.
  8. ^ Anatomy of a story The news about Detroit's frozen man went around the world, but some pertinent details may never catch up.
  9. ^ Tapes show cops looked for frozen man
  10. ^ [[]] |Schneider, Dan (11 March 2008). [ "The Dan Schneider Interview 9: Charlie LeDuff"]. Cosmoetica. Retrieved 15 October 2012.

External links