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LAist Interview: Kevin Roderick

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Kevin Roderick, by Marc Goldstein courtesy KCRW.

In May, Kevin Roderick's LA Observed will celebrate its fifth year as one of the city's main online destination for those seeking the inside scoop on media and politics. Roderick, a 25-year veteran of the LA Times and author of two books about Los Angeles, sat down for nearly an hour where talking about the past, present and future of LA Observed, why he thinks people should be wary of Sam Zell, the new owner of the Times, and whether he thinks blogs are harming print newspapers.

Thank you for joining me. Why don’t we start with you telling me a little about your background?

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I was a journalism major at CSUN and I was the managing editor at the paper there, the Daily Sundial. I got an internship at the Times out of that and stuck around for spring semester. Those were unpaid internships. It was kind of a coveted thing for college students in those days. I was offered a job out of that and started working while I was still in college part-time. That grew to a full-time gig working first in the Valley and Glendale sections. It kind of grew from there.

What kinds of things did you report on when you were first with the Times?

The very first thing I reported on crime and cops type stuff for the most part. As an intern you are here for part of the day and learning your way around. You do whatever's put in front of you. So I was doing briefs and whatever was the crime the crime f the day. The minor crime of the day because the major crime of the day was done by somebody else. After I started working on the staff I started covering politics. Mostly in the San Fernando Valley and features.

Tell me about your experience as a part of the Pulitzer Prize winning team in the 90s

I went from being the suburban reporter to the education writer Downtown and was kind of a general assignment reporter and then worked in the city county bureau covering City Hall and local politics and urban affairs. Then I became a statewide features reporter. I would travel around California and the west, reporting on stories of interest to me and then I became an editor after my child was born and didn’t want to travel anymore. While I was an editor on the state desk, I participated in helping direct the coverage first of the L.A. riots in 1993 and then the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Those both won staff Pulitzer Prizes.

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As someone who had to move around beats, going from crime to education to politics, did you find it was hard to establish a passion? Or, for you at the time, was the passion journalism? In other words, was it less about what you covered and more about the fact that you got to cover it?