Writer, Author Charlie LeDuff Quits N.Y. Times
Charlie LeDuff, a New York Times reporter who often writes, in the words of reviewer Todd Gitlin, "about folks who claw and hang on by their fingernails," has quit the newspaper, telling Journal-isms, "my time is better spent with my daughter."
LeDuff said he made an appointment to see Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and told him of his decision a couple of days ago, and that Sulzberger, whose vision LeDuff said he admires, said he was sorry to see LeDuff go.
"I can't write the things I want to say," LeDuff said, venting frustration with his editors. "I want to talk about race, I want to talk about class. I want to talk about the things we should be talking about," he said.
From August to November, LeDuff, 40, 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.
Based in Los Angeles, LeDuff covered the 2005 trials of Robert Blake, the actor acquitted of charges that he murdered his wife; and Michael Jackson, the "king of pop" who had been accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer patient.
In the Times' prize-winning 2000 series, "How Race is Lived in America," LeDuff wrote about a Tar Heel, N.C., hog slaughterhouse, where "The few whites on the payroll tend to be mechanics or supervisors. As for the Indians, a handful are supervisors; others tend to get clean menial jobs like warehouse work. With few exceptions, that leaves the blacks and Mexicans with the dirty jobs at the factory, one of the only places within a 50-mile radius in this muddy corner of North Carolina where a person might make more than $8 an hour."
LeDuff himself is one-eighth Native American (Ojibwa). The late "Gerald Boyd said I was the most diverse person he knows," LeDuff said of the only African American to become managing editor of the Times.
LeDuff acknowledged that the Times assigned reporter Dan Barry a new national column, "The Land," right after LeDuff had done the "American Album" series that might have qualified him for the job. And while Gitlin praised his new book about masculinity, "US Guys: The True and Twisted Mind of the American Man," in the Feb. 1 edition of the Times, the Sunday Times Book Review panned it. "In the end, we only learn a whole lot about the true and twisted mind of one American man. Who happens to believe he's Everyman," Allison Glock wrote of LeDuff.
"I'm disappointed in what the place is. It's time for me to go," LeDuff said. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I want to spend time with my family. I've got a brand new baby," who is three months old.
Copyright © 2007 Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education