Friday, July 20, 2007

In Plain Sight


Credit goes to the Trib for nailing down the story that the Pittsburgh Penguins--not just UPMC--picked up the mayor's tab at the Lemieux Celebrity Invitational charity golf event. My Channel 4 Action News Report is available here.

There's a backstory here that's worth telling.

Back on July 11th, I'd contacted the mayor's office to ask whether the mayor might be reimbursing UPMC. The mayor was on vacation, but a member of his staff e-mailed me his statement, which I included in-full at the close of this blog entry.

Check out the first sentence of the mayor's second paragraph:

"I attended the Foundation Invitational as a guest of two of our region’s greatest assets: the Pittsburgh Penguins and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center."

At the time, I took the mention of the Penguins as a reference to the Lemieux charity event. We now know the sentence--more than halfway into the mayor's statement--was intended to convey much more: that the Penguins organization had also paid for the Mayor.

A mayor's office staffer told me today she was "surprised we didn't get more questions about that". She said the release had been provided to other reporters as well.

During today's question-and-answer session with the media, the mayor pointed out that the Post-Gazette had already reported on his golfing with the Penguins in a July 6th article.

The PG's reporter tells me, however, he had not taken the information to mean the Penguins had paid for the mayor's first day of golfing. The Trib's reporter had apparently not seen the mayor's July 11th e-mailed statement; he developed his latest story independently.

So, what do we take from all of this? First, there's my embarrassment over the meaning of that second paragraph not jumping out at me. (If a journalist had placed this information in the second paragraph, an editor would have called it "burying the lede".) Second, there's the cold comfort that no other reporter caught it at the time, either. Finally, there's a lesson: just as important questions must be asked precisely, the answers to those questions must be analyzed for their precise meaning.



Bram Reichbaum said...

Good catch, Bob.

I'm going to just go ahead and add my embarrassment to yours and for whatever role I might have played in all this confusion.

Yet when all is said and done, I don't think it amounts to much. UPMC and the Pens are interchangeable for these purposes.

Anonymous said...

Is the mayor's office surprised they haven't gotten more questions about how he was in Harrisburg and in Latrobe at the same time? Because that's where he lied...I mean said...he was at first.

Bram Reichbaum said...

*sigh* another revision?

I first heard the who-paid news not from the written statement, but from the prior interview with Marty Griffin.

Marty makes clear that he discussed the question beforehand, and then asks who paid $27,000 for the threesome.

Ravenstahl first said that he was not sure as to the cost, but then said definitively that "I golfed that day with UPMC."

No mention of splitting the cost of the donation with the Penguins, no mention of golfing with the Pens on the other day. Yet his statement was entirely accurate.

That may have colored our perceptions of the written statement.

Again, *sigh*. It's all out in the wash, at this point.