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10/1/07

For five years, Kevin Roderick's LAObserved.com has been the most important blog in Los Angeles covering Los Angeles media.

No other blog comes close.

A longtime writer and editor at the Los Angeles Times, Roderick is at least as reliable as the hometown paper, and usually quicker and more interesting.

I've had my share of disagreements with Roderick over the years but I think he's a fundamentally decent person and a solid journalist.

He's more open to linking to bloggers than Jim Romenesko.

Roderick used to place a link to lukeford.net on his home page but took it off after I wrote a number of inflammatory items that many (including Kevin) would regard as hate speech. The straw that broke the camel's back was my report that many Orthodox Jews I knew wished for the death of certain Los Angeles Times correspondents reporting negatively on Israel.

The way I wrote the item made many of my readers feel that I shared this perspective. Not true. I have not studied L.A. Times reporting on Israel closely enough to want to pray for the demise of any of its reporters.

I do wish death upon those who do evil (and distorted reporting can be evil).

ERSNews.com is a brash newcomer to Los Angeles media. Its principal figure is Eric Longabardi, an investigative journalist who's worked for such people as Brian Ross (TV's premiere investigative journalist).

Over the past four months, ERSNews has broken more stories than anybody in Los Angeles.

I'm friendly with Eric. I have a civil relationship with Kevin.

Over the past few months, I've found that Los Angeles journalists have strong reactions to Eric -- pro and con. Some (at the LA Times in particular) have tired of his berating emails even while they respect his scoops.

On the Antonio Villaraigosa - Mirthala Salinas story, Eric was consistently and reliably ahead of the pack.

Eric's colleague at ERSNews, Roger Scott (a milder person than Eric), emails Kevin Roderick Sept. 24, 2007: "Nice to the LA Times on Mirthala Salinas. Only one problem  I know for some reason you want to ignore us but we broke that story more than an hour before the LA Times. It would be appropriate to pay attention to who breaks what. We are not looking for credit we didn't earn only that which we did. I don't understand your affiliate with the LA Times but so bi it."

"At least Luke Ford understands who broke what and when. It would be nice if
you had the same integrity."

Kevin responds to Roger:

Roger, I said nothing in my post about who was first. I was hours late, and at that point could give a shit who was first. I point my audience to the most informative and credible story.

I thought it was mainly Eric, but really, you guys ought to think before you harangue. Between the two of you you've used up a ton of good will chits, everywhere in LA as far as I can tell. ERS claims bogus "scoops," your stuff is often questionable, and you're the biggest whiners I ever hear from.

Personally, I've become leery of everything you guys claim because you don't seem to have any judgment on when not to cry wolf.

So be it. I'll pick up clean hits if I see them, but I seldom look at ERS and I pretty much delete any email from Eric claiming a scoop or rip off by the LAT.

And your talk of integrity is simply pathetic.

Roger Scott responds:

The reason you have a great web site and it is great because you have like us feeding you good solid accurate information everyday. If you want a job so badly at the LA Times why don't go and hand in an application. Again. Why are you wasting your tie trying to impress them. As far as I can figure the only one using up god chits is you.

Our stuff is vetted multiple time. The only thing questionable here is your insatiable desire to weasel your way back in to the LA Times. Our integrity speaks for itself.

I don't presume to speak for Eric but when he reports for ABC News you seem not to have this lapse of journalistic integrity.

I didn't know you fancied yourself as the goodwill chit dealer here in LA.

Having read you site over the years I presumed you were an honest broker of credible journalistic information. I guess wrong. So be it. By the way as a passing thought if you really think our stories are questionable I challenge to write about it on your web site.

What's my opinion on this exchange? I think Kevin Roderick comes off best.

In this situation, one should not complain about not getting credit and not getting a link.

Because of the internet, the reporting game is open to anyone and the reward is handed out as close to merit as can be hoped for in this fallen world.

Roderick has linked ERSNews many times in the past four months. I don't think it is important that he's not linked to them a few times when they've broken stories such as the Mirthala Salinas reassignment to Riverside (leading her to leave Telemundo). It's simply easier to link to the L.A. Times version of a story. It's habit.

The L.A. Times are a major journalistic institution. They have more resources than ERSNews (though their coverage of Villaraigosa - Salinas was way behind Longabardi's).

It makes sense to me that when in doubt between the Times and ERSNews, Kevin will first link to the Times. Those are his people. That is his tradition. That's his habit. And there's little wrong with that.

The Times is among America's top five newspapers.

I know that I do most of my blogging and linking by instinct. So does Kevin. He has other jobs that bring him a greater financial reward. Much of the time he's doing LAObserved.com on auto-pilot.

I don't agree with Roger that Roderick wants to ignore ERSNews. Kevin doesn't care for Eric and Roger, but if he's alerted to important information on that site, he's not going to cut off his nose to spite his face and ignore ERSNews.

Kevin may want a job at the Times but I don't think his treatment of ERSNews has anything to do with that. I don't think Kevin (any more than the rest of us) slants his reporting to get himself jobs.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter to Kevin (or to most people) that ERSNews beat the Times by 70 minutes on the Mirthala-relocation-to-Riverside story and its bad form to berate Kevin for ignoring the ERSNews scoop.

LAObserved.com is largely a labor of love. Kevin could make more money doing other things with that time. I'm glad he gives as much as he does to the site. We should look at his efforts as verging on charity, and just as we wouldn't berate a volunteer at a hospital for doing subpar work, so too we should be slow to berate Roderick (unless he needlessly and intentionally hurts innocent people, which I've never seen him do).

Roderick has become a powerful man in Los Angeles media through meritorious work that benefits his readers (and those affected by them).

When Kevin says ERSNews publishes "bogus scoops" and lacks integrity, I think he really means that he finds Eric and Roger obnoxious and that sometimes they, in his view, claim scoops that are not important enough to be called scoops. If Roderick had evidence that ERSNews published inaccurate information, I am sure he'd publish it. He hasn't.

I've never seen anyone lay a glove on the reporting of ERSNews.

I interviewed Eric Longabardi about this stuff September 25.

Luke: "Why did you start ERSNews?"

Eric: "I thought there was a market for old school investigative reporting. There aren't many places [in the mainstream media, particularly television] to do it."

Luke: "Are you frustrated with how difficult it is to make money from the website?"

Eric: "No. I'm not making any yet.

"I don't have a journalism degree. I have a degree in TV/radio Broadcast Management [from San Diego State]. First you have to create an audience. I thought it would take longer to get the audience I'm getting... We're going to start making money."

"Most of the mainstream media ignore these stories [published on ERSNews.com] because they don't make money on them because they're too expensive to produce."

We talk about the Mirthala Salinas story.

Eric: "We did hard-hitting investigative reporting on how the media entity (Telemundo) allowed this to happen. They promoted it, they encouraged it and they used it. That I thought was a better story [than the ones focusing on her sexual relationship with the mayor]. Senior executives at Telemundo and NBC were condoning her behavior with the mayor and long before it."

Luke: "I've heard through the grapevine that you've bombarded a lot of people at the L.A. Times [saying] they've been copying your stories without giving credit."

Eric: "I wouldn't say I was bombarding them. I didn't initiate it. Fishbowl LA did a story. We got an unsolicited email from the L.A. Times lawyer telling us to remove their photographs that we were illegally posting on our site. We weren't illegally doing anything. We were linking to an L.A. Times photo gallery. It was clear to us that we were getting under their skin because we were beating them to the story on a daily basis. L.A. Times servers were in the top five of my traffic for a good two weeks. It was more than a coincidence when I would break a story more than a day or two before they do and then they turn around and break the same story. Re-reporting the story and not attributing it to the outlet that breaks it...

"Ultimately the lawyer went away."

Luke: "Before you ever heard from that lawyer, you were sending berating emails to people at the L.A. Times."

Eric: "Originally they weren't berating. The original ones were just stating the facts that I had broken stories a day or days before them and why were they not attributing those stories to my news outlet. Their opinion was, 'We don't have to. We're the L.A. Times. You're just ERSNews.' They said they didn't think it was necessary.

"The reporter I talked to initially, Duke Helfand, thought I had a valid journalistic point, but his editors make those decisions, not him."

"Their opinion was if they already knew something and they didn't report it, and they claimed to have known it, that's a ridiculous notion... Nobody would attribute anything if you could just say, 'Well, I knew about that. I just didn't report it.' How do you verify when someone says they knew about it? It doesn't matter whether they did or not.

"The proper term is not 'credit.' It's attribution. You'll find the term "As first reported by."

"The L.A. Times reporters on the mayor's story aren't investigative reporters. Most reporters don't like to hear that but it is a specialty."

Luke: "I heard that your emails started going beyond just the facts."

Eric: "In what sense?"

Luke: "To the L.A. Times. I heard you started really berating them in the  most vigorous language."

Eric: "Are you talking about to the lawyer?"

Luke: "No."

Eric: "I wouldn't say I was berating them. I said they were being dismissive and inaccurate."

Luke: "Where was the L.A. Times inaccurate?"

Eric: "In not attributing previously reported material."

Luke: "What's the history with you and Kevin Roderick?"

Eric: "I've known the site for some time like everyone else. Before I started ERSNews, he posted something of mine taking on the AP for ripping off a story of mine to do with 9/11. It was the first thing Kevin Roderick posted about my work as an investigative reporter."

"Do a search on his site and compare what he wrote about stories written or produced by Eric Longabardi for ABC News and then contrast that with his postings on ERSNews. When it's ABC News, there's none of his double standard."

"Kevin's site is a media watercooler site where people from various blogs send him information about various stories in the media. He puts them up there and writes a blurb with his take. He does little original reporting.

"Once I started ERSNews, he posted a lot of stuff about ERSNews."

"He would post stuff that we broke and he'd put, 'ERSNews is reporting based on sources...' and the L.A. Times is equally based on sources, but does he write 'L.A. Times story based on sources'? No.

"Now, when ERSNews has a story not based on sources but on documents and hard facts better than sources, he doesn't give a s---. He tries to manipulate the perspective of his readers, 'Read the L.A. Times. It's more credible even if no one is providing you the ability to determine their credibility."

"The motto of our website is original and exclusive. That's our niche.

"At one point, he was posting our stuff all the time because we were breaking stories all the time.

"He started to slow down...

"I'd rather not have any of our stuff posted on LAObserved.com than to have some guy with a chip on his shoulder about the L.A. Times being the paper of record and having some God-given journalistic credibility, not based on their reporting, but based on being the largest media outlet in Los Angeles... He says something close to that on his website.

"As everybody knows, he's pretty deferential to the L.A. Times. He has a section on his site where he says why he posts so much stuff about the L.A. Times.

"I started to notice that regardless of the facts, if we broke a story before the L.A. Times, say a day and a half before and it's a major story, and somebody places that second to something in the L.A. Times that came two days later...

"A story speaks for itself. I don't care if it's my site or anybody else.

"He started to twist his views because of his clear bias for the L.A. Times.

"He's anointed himself some kind of professor emeritus but he's not basing his stuff on LAObserved.com on journalistic principles. He's resorted to saying it's his site and he'll put what he wants on there. You're a blogger. Kevin Roderick claims to be a journalist. If he says he's a journalist, he should stick to journalistic principles."

Luke: "Maybe he just finds you obnoxious?"

Eric: "I find him obnoxious but that has nothing to do with journalistic principles. If I was running a site and Kevin Roderick was publishing stories days in advance of the L.A. Times, I'd link to them."

"I label my opinion stories as Opinion. I've never seen stories labeled "Opinion" on LAObserved.com."

Luke: "But journalism is done by people and people give more links and coverage to people they like."

Eric: "That's true but that's opinion."

Luke: "That's the way it works."

Eric: "He tells us that he thinks our reporting is questionable. He doesn't know ERSNewsers backgrounds in journalism because I doubt he's ever looked into it. He's not an investigative reporter. He couldn't carry my piss bucket as an investigative reporter. If Kevin Roderick knew anything about me and my credibility as a journalist and my colleague Roger Scott...

"Kevin's a good writer but it's not the most important element of journalism. Accuracy and credibility matter more than subjective opinion. Roderick claims to be exercising journalistic principles when he's giving his subjective opinion. He's entitled to but don't label it journalism. If I break a story and he doesn't like my writing, I'll still put my journalistic ability, integrity and experience up against his and the L.A. Times.

"If he thinks anything is bogus about our reporting, I would implore him to write about it."

"The pompous snobbish view of journalism that is espoused by Kevin Roderick in his correspondence with me and my colleagues is new to me. I've been a journalist for 17 years.

"Few journalists these days are willing to take on other journalists."

"Kevin claims that ERSNews is not of the same journalistic calibre as the L.A. Times for reasons he is not willing to go into."

"He says he served on teams that won two Pulitzer prizes. I'm not big on awards [except as a short-hand for excellence]. I have the equivalent of a Pulitzer in broadcast journalism -- a DuPont. I have every national award you can win. I've won more awards than Kevin Roderick and any of the L.A. Times reporters he gives so much credibility to."

"If he's old school, I'm really old school. I don't base journalistic credibility on the name of the outlet. I base it on the material."

Eric Longabardi responds to my post:

Roderick can post whatever he wants that's not the issue. It's his blog.

We are not "asking for a link." We are confronting him on his bias towards the LA Times.

We asked him why he ignored the fact that we broke that particular story.

This was not the first time. It was the last straw. He's been ignoring our work for whatever reasons he was doing so which he told us -- after -- we confronted him.

The issue is not that we broke the one story an hour ahead (which is a fact). The issue is he ignored the work completely and has been ignoring us purposefully and with intent (read his own words).

He states himself he doesn't read ERS and why. I took him at his word, so if those are his reasons then we are going to confront him about it. His reasons are not only "bogus" but on top of that they are dishonest and more importantly journalistically unethical.

When a story is broken by us (or anybody else) and he purposefully ignores the story (not just the fact it was broken) based on non-journalistic reasons, he is being dishonest to his audience.

Look at the story yesterday about Mirthala not showing up at work etc. He links to ALL the outlets that reported that story, even though there was no issue of "exclusivity" and "attribution." They ALL had the story at the same time. They were ALL waiting for her to come to work.

If he thinks we're not "credible and informative" and "bogus" and "questionable" he out to put up or shut up, not hide behind his site like the snob he is and dis us in secret to others and dis us by ignoring our work as best he can out of a deference to his old longtime employer and possibly future employer and whatever other reasons he bases his clear bias towards the LAT.

You were right he won't cut off his own nose completely, but he stated he was already doing it as best he could applying a "double standard" to ERS that he does not apply to others.

That's was the primary point Roger was making with him. Our site does investigative reporting, he has no idea what that is, he's a print guy who thinks he was handed the tablets of journalism from somebody upstairs. The problem is he not doing journalism, although he claim he is (once again read his own message). He's a blogger. Unlike you he is DISHONEST about what he does.

We've only have had a problem with two outlets -- LAO and the LAT.

Everybody else -- NO PROBLEM.

I've had bloggers properly credit and attribute to us (and even when NICELY asked -- when they properly failed to or didn't have the info too -- after the fact) on this story and others. None of them had the pompous sanctimonious attitude of Roderick or the LAT.

Like I said, he disses us, publicly by ignoring our work and claiming to be doing it on journalistic principles and even worse privately -- because he think he is some kind of "chit broke" and we need to kiss his ---. We don't kiss ---. We will confront him when we see fit.

Unlike him we'd rather do it in public so his 'audience' can see what he is really about and that is not journalism.

He may be the "most important" blog in LA in your view, (not mine) but we will hold him accountable if he continues to ignore our work based on his lack of journalistic principles, integrity and credibility and his outright dishonesty.

Our work at ERS speaks for itself we don't anybody else to "make us credible." We are in competition with LAO, LAT and others as you know to make money. That is the heart of the matter, and I think you missed that.

The bottom line is always the bottom line -- and us making the LAT look bad and LAO look bad journalistically is an affront to their "status quo."

Just ask yourself .. if LAO was doing the exact same thing to the Daily News or ABC News or the NYT would you agree with Roderick?

I doubt you would.