Leduff, Charlie 1967-
Leduff, Charlie 1967-
CAREER: New York Times, New York, NY, 1995—, began as reporter for metropolitan desk, became national correspondent in Los Angeles bureau. Worked previously as a reporter for Alaska Fisherman’s Journal, as a middle-school teacher, baker, bartender, cannery worker, and gang counselor. Star of ten-part television series Only in America; star and narrator of documentary United Gates of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, 2001, for series “How Race Is Lived in America”; Meyer Berger Award, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, for writing style and stories reflecting the lives of everyday New Yorkers.
Work and Other Sins: Life in New York City and Thereabouts, Penguin Press (New York, NY), 2004.
US Guys: The True and Twisted Mind of the American Man, Penguin Press (New York, NY), 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: Charlie LeDuff is a correspondent for the New York Times who contributed to a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles about race in America. LeDuff held a variety of jobs before taking up journalism, and as a reporter has frequently researched his articles by immersing himself in new professions. After working a variety of jobs, LeDuff began his writing career as an intern for the Alaska Fisherman’s Journal. An outstanding obituary LeDuff wrote for a friend, a Russian youth who had died after the fall of the Soviet Union, caught the attention of some key people at the New York Times, and LeDuff was offered a ten-week chance to work with the prestigious newspaper. After the ten weeks were up, his term was extended into a six-month trial, then a three-year apprenticeship. LeDuff was hired as a full-fledged staff member shortly before starting work on the series that won the Pulitzer in 2001.
For his contribution to the prize-winning series, LeDuff went to North Carolina and got a job at the country’s largest pork-processing plant. He found that while Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans could all get jobs at the plant, the areas in which they worked were strictly, if unofficially, segregated. LeDuff described the brutality of slaughterhouse work and the unofficial politics of the workplace. LeDuff has written more than four hundred articles for the Times, his assignments ranging from roaming New York City in the guise of a blind person, to reporting on the war in Iraq while embedded in a unit of Marines.
LeDuff’s first book was Work and Other Sins: Life in New York City and Thereabouts. In it, he offers profiles of various working people in New York, including a doorman, a gravedigger, slaughterhouse workers, a florist, a prostitute, and even an animal trapper. His portraits are “compelling and entertaining,” stated Donna Seaman in Booklist, adding that they are “spiked with social commentary and graced with frank wonder” at the character of the people he writes about. A Publishers Weekly writer remarked on the author’s respect for his subjects, and noted: “His carefully dry, clipped style honors their experiences and habits.” Nevertheless, that writer did feel that LeDuff’s tone was perhaps too detached, and stated that the author “does little to advance the interests of his subjects.” Another reviewer, Karen Valby in Entertainment Weekly, praised LeDuff’s collection of character sketches as “extraordinary.”
LeDuff again sought to illuminate the lives of ordinary Americans in his second book, US Guys: The True and Twisted Mind of the American Man. His “gonzo exploits in this book are nothing short of inspired,” according to a Publishers Weekly writer. LeDuff tells of getting into a fight at a biker club, going out on assignment with homicide police in Detroit, spending time with gay rodeo riders, and discussing racial issues with football players in Texas. In the process he searches for insights into both the male psyche and the American way of life. The Publishers Weekly reviewer found LeDuff’s work at times “self-consciously stylized,” but praised it overall as “angry, touching, entertaining, and flawed.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, January 1, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of Work and Other Sins: Life in New York City and Thereabouts, p. 815.
Commentary, April, 2004, Luc Sante, review of Work and Other Sins, p. 75.
Entertainment Weekly, January 23, 2004, Karen Valby, review of Work and Other Sins, p. 105.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2003, review of Work and Other Sins, p. 1301.
Library Journal, December, 2003, Suzanne W. Wood, review of Work and Other Sins, p. 147; November 1, 2006, Joseph L. Carlson, review of US Guys: The True and Twisted Mind of the American Man, p. 98.
PR Newswire, August 22, 2005, “Pulitzer Prize-Winning New York Times Reporter Charlie LeDuff Explores the Unique Subcultures That Exist Only in America.”
Publishers Weekly, October 16, 2006, review of US Guys, p. 43; November 17, 2003, review of Work and Other Sins, p. 57.
Journalism Jobs, http://www.journalismjobs.com/ (January 18, 2007), interview with Charlie LeDuff.