LeDuff chided, but...

| 2 Comments

That Charlie LeDuff piece in the NYT last week on kayaking the L.A. River was too familiar for Blake Gumprecht, author of the 1999 book The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth. He complained to the Times that the story was based on his research without attribution. The result was an editor's note in Monday's paper.

An article last Monday about the Los Angeles River recounted its history and described the reporter's trip downriver in a kayak. In research for the article, the reporter consulted a 1999 book by Blake Gumprecht, "The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth." Several passages relating facts and lore about the river distilled passages from the book. Although the facts in those passages were confirmed independently—through other sources or the reporter's first hand observation—the article should have acknowledged the significant contribution of Mr. Gumprecht's research.

Slate's Jack Shafer reviews the episode in a piece posted yesterday. I agree with him that some of the comparisons Gumprecht complains about would be fine to me. For instance, the author finds these two passages suspicious:

LeDuff: "The river is crossed by more than 100 bridges."
Book: "Millions of people cross it every day on more than a hundred bridges."

Looks like a basic fact discernible from any map to me, and the writing isn't that similar. So no one else should describe the river as crossed by 100 bridges because Gumprecht did? Some passages are closer, but I think if LeDuff had acknowledged consulting the book (and other published sources) the author would have nothing to complain about. It's research, not plagiarism. Keith Kelly in the New York Post today makes the stretch that it could cast a shadow over LeDuff's own book, a compilation of his New York Times pieces due out in January.

edited 10:45 a.m.


More by Kevin Roderick:
Ralph Lawler of the Clippers and the age of Aquarius
Riding the Expo Line to USC 'just magical'
Last bastion of free parking? Loyola Marymount to charge students
Matt Kemp, Dodgers and Kings start big weekend the right way
LA Times writers revisit their '92 riots observations
Recent New York Times stories on LA Observed:
Touring the sites of famous Julius Shulman photos in LA
Correction o' the day
Only three+ mistakes in NYT gallery on 'Hollywood'
Frank Bruni, ex-NYT food critic, blogs about his gout
36 hours in Long Beach
Previous story: 'New York' sold

Next story: Chick week

New at LA Observed
Follow us on Twitter

On the Media Page
Go to Media
On the Politics Page
Go to Politics

LA Biz Observed
Arts and culture

Sign up for daily email from LA Observed

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


Advertisement
LA Observed on Twitter and Facebook