Journalism

Over the line? Detroit journalists debate fairness in Charlie LeDuff case coverage

Charlie LeDuff doesn’t want us to feel lukewarm about him.

With intense delivery and dramatic style, the Fox2 reporter reaches for high notes that engage or enrage. Either way, it’s hot TV.

Charlie LeDuff

Charlie LeDuff unwinds.

So it’s hardly a shock that a who-surprised? tone crops up in some coverage of his police citation Sunday during a St. Pat’s parade visit  gone wild. Cops wrote up an aggravated assault complaint after a 54-year-old security worker at a private tent party said LeDuff bit his finger during a scuffle. The newsman wasn’t working.

His flamboyant style is alluded to prominently by the Oakland Press (“eccentric” is in the headline), by WDIV (“known for his bizarre antics on camera”) and WXYZ, where Bill Proctor begins this way:

He describes his TV reporting as “off the chain:” and now there are allegations that Fox 2 reporter Charlie LeDuff was off the chain in his personal life.

The incident even gets a five-sentence, 19- second mention on his station, WJBK.

Amusing photo choice

Downtown dailies do some winking as well.

A file photo of LeDuff leaving a portable outdoor toilet accompanies an article at The News, where he worked before Fox2. The Freep‘s lead paragraph describes him as being “known for bizarre on-air stunts.”

The story also gets seven paragraphs in a widely read journalism blog, JimRomenesko.com.

Predictably, the wacky development has Detroit journalists abuzz about one of their most flamboyant front men. A few social media posts raise eyebrows.

“Sometimes our seeming delight in the exposure of other people’s bad behavior is bizarre and ”off the chain,’ ” local photographer Susan Tusa, a former Freep staffer, posts Wednesday morning on Facebook.

“It’s worth noting Charlie’s struggles in the past,” suggests another Freep veteran, Detroit blogger Steve Neavling. “Do we make fun of the consequence of his struggles?”

Freep writer’s tease

Free Press reporter removed his March 12 post a day later.

Reporter removed his “LOL!” post the next day.

The most glaring example, cited by Neavling atop a 50-comment thread on his Facebook page, comes from Matt Helms — a city hall reporter whose byline is on Free Press coverage Tuesday evening and Wednesday.

After filing his first report, he commented about the case on his personal social media pages,  which mention his Freep job in bio blurbs.

On Twitter and Facebook, Helms linked to a 2008 viral video of a baby biting his brother’s finger, titled “Charlie Bite Me.” He tagged LeDuff In both posts so he’d see them, and commented with each (“OMFG! Hilarious!” on Twitter and “News at 10! LOL!” on Facebook.)

Helms’ posts were removed Wednesday afternoon after I requested a comment from Paul Anger, editor and publisher, who didn’t respond.

For his part, Helms defended his jesting before deleting the Facebook thread. “It’s Charlie LeDuff. He’s made a career of personal spectacle,” he posted Tuesday night when I questioned his action.

Local social media discussions about this involve what’s in and out of bounds — and whether a grandstanding reporter such as LeDuff should be treated differently than . . . oh, let’s say Neal Rubin to pick a universally admired mensch.

Here’s a sampling of what journalists and viewers say:

  • Helms was just having some fun with it.  – Ben Schmitt, marketing specialist and ex-Freep reporter
  • What was unusual to me is what Helms posted on Facebook. Someone else at the Free Press got suspended for that very thing. –  Steve Neavling, Detroit blogger and ex-Freep reporter
  • When you put yourself out there like Charlie does, you set yourself up for this kind of attention. Deadline Detroit could do a series on “reporters behaving badly.” – Randi Goldberg, public relations executive and former AP Detroit news editor
  • If this had been a city official behaving badly and Charlie LeDuff was reporting the story, I wonder how would he have handled it? – Jim Bianchi, Troy PR agency presidentMatt helms tweet
  • It’s haters trying to rain on his parade. The media establishment in Detroit is brutal. – Demeeko Ashawn Williams of Detroit
  • You go around talking about the irresponsibility of everyone in the city and act irresponsibly and go around spitting and biting people, yeah, you’re going to get a little bit of media bias against you. – Craig Hennigan, grad teaching assistant at WSU
  • LeDuff is a public figure. All public figures are held to higher standards than John Q. Public and for good reasons. LeDuff’s actions are absolutely news. . . . LeDuff is being held to the same standards he holds others to. — Blake Arnold, Grosse Pointe Woods business owner
  • What Charlie did in and of itself isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But when you’re the self-proclaimed face of holding people in Detroit to higher standards, you can’t do something like this and be taken seriously. — Brian Powers, Realtor in Chesterfield Township

Matt Helms FB short

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10 thoughts on “Over the line? Detroit journalists debate fairness in Charlie LeDuff case coverage

  1. What i do not realize is actually how you’re not actually much more well-liked than you may be now. You are so intelligent. You realize therefore considerably relating to this subject, made me personally consider it from numerous varied angles. Its like women and men aren’t fascinated unless it’s one thing to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs great. Always maintain it up!

  2. Charlie says his motto as a reporter is to get it right and not be boring. He’s done both on his beat. A certain judge, the DFD and others can attest..

  3. Having had a few exchanges with Charlie on/off camera including being featured in some of his print pieces I recognize a behavior pattern that will require treatment that is why I pray that Charlie LaDuff gets help for his addiction issues. Mainstream Detroit media is on tilted & hypocritical perch on this one and how they handled another of the brethern Leonard Flemming’s sextexting body parts –

  4. This article also demonstrates that a partial Facebook post can end up as a quote in a news story. And that’s OK! Let me be clear: I am a big LeDuff fan. But I don’t think a link to the “Charlie bit my finger” video is malicious. That was my point. Check the post about LeDuff yesterday on my page if you doubt me. I enjoyed this column and this topic.

    • Agree the video wasn’t malicious, Ben. Heck, I grinned, too.

      But it’s unseemly to crack wise about a story one is covering . . . outside the newsroom or Anchor, that is.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Times have clearly changed. Go to the opposite end of the spectrum and look at Elrick’s post in defense of LeDuff: about “taking a crap” in the middle of Woodward. Should he be posting that without all the facts yet? I’m not saying he shouldn’t. Elrick’s post also made me laugh. It’s just the world we live in now.

  5. Matt Helms comes across as unprofessional, and more of a jerk than the man he is lampooning. His envy is loud and clear. He certainly never should be allowed to write another story that even mentions Charlie LeDuff since he can not even provide a pretense of objectivity.

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