Before he uncovered corruption and mismanagement at City Hall, pranced around in his underwear in search of pigeons and golfed across the length of Detroit to uncover decaying neighborhoods for Fox 2 News, LeDuff was a popular reporter for the Detroit News. He pursued the city’s underbelly with a curiosity and zeal that had been all but dead in Detroit journalism.
When LeDuff quit the Detroit News in October 2010, many wondered what had happened. How could the News let go of a Pulitzer-winning journalist, especially one who drew readers who had become bored with print journalism?
“I called my buddy the janitor and had him bring a trash can on wheels up to the newsroom. When he did, I swept the entire contents of my desktop into the garbage can and walked out,” LeDuff wrote in his new book, Detroit: An American Autopsy.
LeDuff had become disoriented with a newsroom that cared less about substance and more about offending no one. The final straw came when the newspaper rewrote parts of a story about a man who killed a cop after a judge freed the career criminal.
“American newspapers were yellow and stale before they came off the press,” LeDuff said. “Dog-beaten by a dwindling readership, financial losses and partisan attacks, editors had stripped them of their personality in an attempt to offend no one. And so there was no more reason to read them. Safety before Truth. Grammar over Guts. Winners before Losers.”
When LeDuff quit working at the New York Times, he said, “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.”
To read more about LeDuff’s newest book, check out this good review by Bill Shea.
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Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Living on the city’s east side, Neavling explores corruption, civil liberties and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.