What is Luke Ford’s beef with Kevin Roderick?*

*Updated… additional details at bottom of entry.

Blogging pioneer Luke Ford is questioning the credentials of LA Observed’s Kevin Roderick, who lists sharing “in two Pulitzer Prizes awarded for staff coverage” while working at the Los Angeles Times.

Does that mean that everyone who worked on these series (must be more than 50 people) shared in these Pulitzers? Does it mean his name is inscribed on the Pulitzers (awarded in 1993 and 1995, right?)? I don’t think you can claim a Pulitzer unless you were specifically awarded one.

Ford adds that he doesn’t believe Roderick’s name wasn’t on any of the winning articles bylines, and that he was only an editor. ” It seems like a stretch to say that you shared in a Pulitzer when your name wasn’t on any of the stories awarded.”

Mayor Sam, where I found this, jumped on this, with the headline, “Kevin Roderick a fraud?”

I have a friend who won an Emmy and I took him out to dinner. Maybe I should claim that I’ve won an Emmy?

I emailed Roderick a couple questions for comment. His response:

Unlike the individual Pulitzers, on staff ones they give awards to all the writers and editors who had key roles on the stories — probably more than 50 in these cases. They don’t inscribe names on any Pulitzer trophies, I don’t think, but certainly not on staff ones. The plaques we all received for spot reporting in 1992 and 1994 are nice 5 x 7 inch lucite-type rectangles, with a replica of the front page embedded inside, and some wording about the prize at the bottom. I’m looking at my two right now — very dusty, but otherwise sort of nice looking. You can come over and see them anytime.

Do you know what Luke Ford’s motivation was for bringing this up now?

I have no idea what Luke Ford’s motivation is for posting something so unresearched and clearly erroneous. Michael Higby never needs any reason to post untrue things about me… this must be number 200 or so so that one’s no surprise at all. I don’t trust the accuracy or the ethics of anything at Mayor Sam, and I don’t know anyone in L.A. politics who does.

Roderick also addressed Ford’s comments that questioned why Roderick called a Times reporter “a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter” while Ford was told the award was “for beat reporting, not investigative reporting.”

The stories that Philips did for his Pulitzer were investigative reporting. That’s his slot and his profile at the Times. There’s nothing about a Pulitzer for beat reporting that conflicts with “investigative reporter.” Eric Longabardi [who told this to Ford] knows this, but he’s actively mad that I don’t link to his website more often. I have dozens of screed emails from him to show for it, unfortunately.

If you still can’t get enough of Kevin Roderick, check out Jeremy Oberstein’s interview with him at LAist.

*UPDATE: The confusion over Chuck Philips may be an issue of semantics – his Pulitzer was indeed for Beat Reporting, while there is a seperate category for Investigative Reporting (which went to the staff of the Miami Herald that year). His award winning beat reporting was for stories “on corruption in the entertainment industry, including a charity sham sponsored by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, illegal detoxification programs for wealthy celebrities, and a resurgence of radio payola,” which sounds like would have been investigative reporting to me. [Details]

Also on the Pulitzer site is a faq on submission guidelines.

Q. How many individuals may be named in a team entry? A. Only three individuals. If more are involved, the entry must be in the name of the newspaper staff of the newspaper.

In Jeremy Obersteins interview, Roderick says, “While I was an editor on the state desk, I participated in helping direct the coverage first of the L.A. riots in 1993 and then the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Those both won staff Pulitzer Prizes.”

10 thoughts on “What is Luke Ford’s beef with Kevin Roderick?*”

  1. Roderick’s sorta kinda right. A Pulitzer can be awarded to up to three individual staff members – these are the folks who can fairly claim to be “Pulitzer-prize winning journalists.” It’s also worth noting that the Public Service Award is always given to the paper, not to an individual. But when Dana Priest picks one up on Monday for her Walter Reed series, I think we can fairly credit her with the award. Probably the best guide in those situations is whether one or more staffers are singled out in the citation – that’s the Pulitzer board’s way of winking and nodding, and letting us know who they would have given the prize to if they were allowed by the rules.
    Roderick’s biography seems fair to me. He doesn’t just say he “shared in” two Pulitzers; he specifies that they were awarded for staff coverage. That’s the key thing here. Sure, thousands of journalists working today can claim to have “shared in” staff coverage awards – and as far as I’m concerned, they’re welcome to do so.
    It’s his response that wanders off the straight and narrow. There are no Pulitzer trophies; just the Public Service Medal. The individual winners are each handed a plaque at the awards ceremony in May. The ones I’ve seen do indeed include the recipient’s name. I don’t know what Roderick’s got on his shelf, but it sure as heck isn’t an official Pulitzer plaque – it sounds like some nifty doo-dad ordered up by the paper to spread the general joy of the achievement. That’s great; they’re entitled. But they shouldn’t try to equate that with the achievements of journalists awarded individual Pulitzers.
    So we’ll give Roderick a passing grade for his biography, but mark him down for his explanation.

  2. I think K-Rod is fine. All former newspaper reporters that not JUST the reporter can get credit for an award. There’s the editor who assigned the story, the editor who did the first, second, third, etc. reads, the copy editor who put the headline on it, then the page designer…LOL. I’m not entirely sure that Pulitzer committees take everyone plus the office janitors into consideration, but a really GOOD story package is always the product of several people. As bloggers well know, a community does better work than one person.

  3. Why does he care?

    Because, Stephen, Luke turns green with envy at any paid, credentialed writer and when he spies an opportunity that he hopes will bring one down it makes his low self-esteem swell. Trust me. I’ve known Luke for years.

  4. Hell, I worked on both those “Pulitzer” teams (riots and Northridge quake), and even have nice plexiglass paperweights issued by the Times to show for it. OTOH, I never list it on my resume because I was one of about 75 staffers who covered those ongoing events.

    Anyway, if this is the height of BlogLAspheric outrage in Luke’s mind, perhaps he hasn’t been looking high enough.

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