(Aug 12th, 2008 9:30AM PST)
In April 2008, Los Angeles blogger and Internet muckraker Luke Ford posted an item claiming that one of Los Angeles’s major bloggers, Kevin Roderick who founded and writes LAObserved.com, may have fudged his claim of sharing two Pulitzer Prizes.
On his own LAObserved.com website Roderick states that … “He shared in two Pulitzer Prizes awarded for staff coverage of the Rodney King riots and the Northridge earthquake."
Turns out Roderick’s claims are false.
ERS News checked the claims made by Roderick of “sharing” in the winning of The Pulitzer. We contacted Columbia University, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prize awards. The awards are widely considered the most prestigious awards for print journalism in the world.
The facts, uncovered by ERS, show that Roderick’s claim to having been awarded or at the very least having “shared” in receiving a Pulitzer Prize are false and misleading.
The Enterprise Report obtained the Pulitzer award submissions made by the LA Times in 1993 and 1995, the two years that Roderick claims to have “shared” in the prizes. The submissions, submitted and signed by then LA Times editor Shelby Coffey are here for you to read.
The 1993 Pulitzer for “spot news reporting” was awarded to the LA Times for its coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. The submission itself has a long list of stories and the specific names of reporters and photographers who contributed to the published articles that were given the Pulitzer award.
Kevin Roderick’s name does not appear anywhere on the submission that won the award.
The same holds true for the 1995 Pulitzer awarded to the Times for its coverage of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.
The submission for the earthquake coverage award contains 12 different stories, with the specific names of over 25 bylined reporters and photographers who contributed to the articles submitted and awarded the Pulitzer. You can view the stories here:
Once again, Roderick’s name is nowhere to be found.
According to the rules of the Pulitzer Prize, when an award entry contains more than three named journalists, the award is given in the name of the “staff” of the publication.
The use of the term “staff” could be interpreted loosely to mean anybody who was working for the LA Times in 1993 and 1994 when the stories were published.
Therefore anybody, including former LA Times editor Roderick could make the claim to having “shared” in winning the Pulitzer Prize award.
ERS spoke with Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. He told ERS News that the intention of the awards is to acknowledge the actual journalists whose work is submitted in consideration for the award, by name in the category entered. It is not intended to allow anyone working for the publication at the time to claim that they are Pulitzer Prize winners. If that was not the case anybody working at the LA Times during that time period could make the same false claim of having “shared” in the winning of journalism’s most prestigious prize; any reporter or editor, or even to the person running the parking lot or the guard at the front door.
When questioned about the discrepancy in early 2008 after Luke Ford published his claim that Roderick had not actually won a Pulitzer Prize, Roderick told LA based blogger David Markland:
Roderick also attacked Ford’s assertions when asked about his (Ford’s) motivation in publishing the allegations about his Pulitzer claims by saying
(Question by David Markland) .. “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.”
Turns out Luke Ford was 100% accurate about Kevin Roderick’s false claims of winning a Pulitzer Prize.
Roderick’s name is nowhere on the long list of stories, of LA Times journalists credited and bylined which were awarded the Pulitzer in 1993 and 1995 for Spot News Reporting.
The plaque Roderick is referring to when answering blogger Markland’s question, is NOT a Pulitzer Prize award. It is a plaque handed out by the paper itself. Another former LA Times reporter named Mack Reed, who worked at the LA Times during the same period, read Roderick’s claims about being a Pulitzer winner.
He had this to say about Roderick’s less than accurate claims.
Mack Reed (mackreed) April 4th, 2008 3:40 pm
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.
The plaque given out by the Pulitzer Prizes in 1995 was accepted by an LA Times editor at the time. A photo of the award being accepted can be seen here.
“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.”
Although The Pulitzer Prizes award a myriad of awards in variety of categories, some of which have changed over the years, they don’t award the prestigious journalistic prize for “directing coverage” or to news editing. So it seems one of LA’S leading bloggers has some questions to answer about his Pulitzer claims.
LUKE FORD ADDS:
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.”