Detroit’s Charlie LeDuff Talks Writing, L Brooks Patterson, and “A Choo-Choo”

Jake Neher/WDET

Writer Tom Wolfe died this week. Wolfe, who was famous for works such as “The Right Stuff” and “Bonfire of the Vanities”, was notable for his position within a field labeled New Journalism of the 1960s and ‘70s. It involved the concept of inserting oneself into the narrative, or at least allowing oneself to be an active observer as a story unfolds.

New Journalism is practiced more broadly in modern writing circles and has been popularized with a new class of writers including Detroit’s own Charlie LeDuff.


LeDuff speaks with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about his new book, writing, and how journalism has changed over time.

LeDuff says it’s important for journalists to be clear with audiences about “who you are, where you’re coming.”

Laura Weber Davis/WDET

Charlie LeDuff (right) with Stephen Henderson

On New Journalism forefathers:

They would write in scenes. Instead of the who-what-when-where-why block article, they put you there… It was a brilliant time in American letters.”

On modern journalism and newsrooms:

It stinks. The newspapers stink. Whatever happened to the big story of the lady in the neighborhood?”

What we were promised by the media during the run-up here was that the media acknowledged that it misunderstood the country… this isn’t a circular moment in time, it’s an epic. It’s a complete shift.”

On LeDuff’s recent profile of L. Brooks Patterson:

I think he’s clear and sharp-eyed. His mental capacity, he’s all there. But here’s the news, he’s not running for election… so he says ‘Let me drop the gloves. This is B.S.’”

On transit in Detroit and Metro Detroit:

The QLine is a failure. They over promised on ridership… The white man’s People Mover is the QLine.”

We’ve got to move people around to the jobs and get to the sprawl. But Amazon, I’ve tried to reach them multiple times [about their decision not to bring HQ2 to Detroit]. Show me the piece of paper that says ‘We’re not coming because you don’t have a choo-choo.’”

Click on the audio player for the full conversation. 

Image credit: Laura Weber Davis/WDET

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Detroit Today

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