Interview: Kevin Roderick

Since 2003, Kevin Roderick has provided Angelinos with their daily dose of local news and "sense of place" via the Web site LA Observed, a must-read for both casual clickers and the media- and politics-obsessed.

Since 2003, Kevin Roderick has provided Angelinos with their daily dose of local news and "sense of place" via the Web site LA Observed, a must-read for both casual clickers and the media- and politics-obsessed.

An editor and writer at the Los Angeles Times for almost two decades, Roderick also led the short-lived LA bureau of Industry Standard magazine and is the author of two books.

PRWeek: What are some of the differences you've found between print and Web journalism?

Kevin Roderick: It hasn't been a complete transition for me... When the Web came along, I was eager to experiment with it. I'm still very much a print journalist: I'm a contributing writer to LA Magazine and regularly write about politics for them and for others, and have done a couple of books. So LA Observed is just part of my profession.

PRWeek: Can the immediacy of the Web be a real advantage?

Roderick: I constantly see the other media in the LA area picking up items from LA Observed, picking up stories or following them the next day, which is kind of gratifying. But I just think that's a natural evolution. Blogs are able to move faster.

PRWeek: Do you find that time-crunched readers are looking to LA Observed for their news rather than starting their days with the newspaper or TV?

Roderick: I actually hear that a lot from people these days, that what they value from a blog like LA Observed is that, essentially, I do the reading for them. Through the eyes of a journalist, I pick the important or the interesting stories and filter out the rest. It gives people a head's up on their day's media consumption if they [like] what I choose to highlight. That was never an intended role of LA Observed, but it has evolved into an important part of what readers come to the blog for: It helps them pick and choose from the media cacophony that we're barraged with everyday.

PRWeek: How well do you think PR pros have caught on to the importance of blogs?

Roderick: I'm finding that there are more and more advertisers and marketers who are focusing on the blog world as a really good way to market movies, in particular, and books and other things that are very much pitched to the online audience.
And PR shops are finding that blogs are an invaluable source of information for a lot of people. These days, if you're trying to reach readers of a certain education level and demographic, [if you] ignore blogs, you do that at your peril.

PRWeek: How does your relationship with PR professionals differ now from when you were at the LA Times?

Newspapers are one sort of nut to crack for PR people, and blogs are both an opportunity and a little bit more of a problem. I'm not inundated with material like I was at the Times -- there, you receive an awful lot of material you just throw away without even opening.

PRWeek: What kind of PR efforts do you do on behalf of LA Observed?

I don't do any advertising or marketing of the blog other than the kind of word-of-mouth, viral marketing that happens naturally in the blogosphere. I link to other blogs that I find interesting or that have written something I think LA Observed readers will want to know about. Often other blogs pick up what they see in LA Observed for their readers. And that word-of-mouth spreads the word about the blog and that's how the readership gets built.

PRWeek: LA Observed has covered the Doug Dowie/Fleishman-Hillard overbilling issue since it broke. How did it affect LA's political environment?

Roderick: What Fleishman represented was this very lucrative interface between the PR world and the political world. And [former Los Angeles GM] Doug Dowie fancied himself as a power broker. He didn't just fancy himself - he was a power broker. He had connections with the [James] Hahn [mayoral] administration, he made sure everybody knew it, and he used that to build a very lucrative practice.
I think that once he was forced to leave and there was a lot of backlash, now you don't see that kind of connection as openly between politicians and the PR firms as you did before. I think the influence is still there, but I think it certainly made City Hall feel very skittish about whom they deal with. [It] makes them much more careful about trying to be more ethical in their dealings. Nobody wants a repeat of [that] experience on their watch.

Name: Kevin Roderick

Outlet: LA Observed

Title: Editor and publisher

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