Monday, October 8, 2007

Ravenstahl In The New York Times: UPDATED

The New York Times revisits Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in this story by Ian Urbina headlined "In Media's Eye, Young Mayor Says He's Learning." It follows another profile in the New York Sun by Seith Gitell just last week. The ironic twist here is that the Mayor's announced intent to maintain a lower personal profile until election day was launched as the lead story in the 'National Report' section of one of America's most prominent papers. In the interview, Ravenstahl himself recounts several of his controversies for the national readership.

You can see Mayor Ravenstahl's comments about his planned lower profile in my Channel 4 Action News report. The video is available on the Pittsburgh Channel.

The appearance of two New York newspaper profiles of the mayor within seven days gives rise to this question: did someone pitch interviews with the mayor to the New York media? The answer is "no". Times reporter Ian Urbina tells me no one pitched his story to him; it was a follow-up to his earlier profile of Mayor Ravenstahl. I also spoke with Seth Gitell, who says his story idea was his own; his wife has family ties to Pittsburgh that brought them here recently.

Given the focus of its story on Mayor Ravenstahl's "intense news media questioning", I was curious about whether the New York Times interviewed any local journalists for their perspective. I was surveying local political and government reporters via e-mail when Times reporter Ian Urbina himself graciously responded directly. He tells me he did not speak to any local reporters who actually cover the mayor. As you'll see in the Times story, commentator John McIntire is quoted--but misidentified as a KDKA Radio talk show host, a position he left six months ago. When I asked Urbina if he interviewed any other media source beside McIntire, he said he had also contacted the satirical website "The Carbolic Smoke Ball".

Here's an unusual tidbit in the Times story:

“I like him because the city runs,” said Eliza Wiles, 54, waiting for a bus several blocks from City Hall. Ms. Wiles added that she could not care less that the mayor was younger than her son or that Mr. Ravenstahl wore flip-flops on a plane to Los Angeles — an episode that drew criticism. “The abandoned cars get gone, street lights get fixed. The place is safe,” she said. “That’s what matters to me.”

Flip-flops criticism? Really? The only references to this I can find stem from one talk show host who was sympathetically joking with the mayor about the media attention by bringing up whether he'd worn flip-flops on a plane. Mayor Ravenstahl admitted to that when I asked him about it today.

Mayor Ravenstahl: "That was just part of our casual conversation that we had. No, you're correct."

Q: "No one's grilling you about that?"

Mayor Ravenstahl: "No.... You are now, though. (Laughter)."

Times reporter Urbina was not let in on the joke. Urbina tells me that when he pressed the mayor to elaborate on the sort of media queries that trouble him, Ravenstahl cited the "flip-flops" example. The Times reporter--trusting the account--used the mayor's description to elicit the comment from Pittsburgher Eliza Wiles quoted above.

The mayor has used the "flip-flop" story as though it was real at least twice before. It occurred in passing during the course of radio interviews here and here.



Char said...

Maybe I just don't appreciate the role Pittsburgh plays in the daily lives of New Yorkers. Sorry, I can't see the Big Apple caring one way or another whether Pittsburgh's mayor wears flip-flops or Wingtips, prefers jockeys to briefs, watches the Steeler game live or sitting home alone crying in his beer.

Who set him up for this sympathy piece anyway?

Judge Rufus Peckham said...

When the Times contacted us, we explained that the folks in our region feel much safer from attack by al Qaeda now that the mayor and his buddies are patrolling Pittsburgh's happening places in that cool intelligence vehicle. (Which will teach the Times to call us.) Next time, I'm going to direct them to Char, since she recently became "one of us."

Anonymous said...

Since when was Ravenstahl 'hounded by the press'at Steeler games? The good news for Ravenstahl is that he will only miss one home game between now and election day. What a goof!

EdHeath said...

So Ian Urbina must know by now that the Mayor played him, not even mentioning a major issue (the Lemieux tournament/ethics board appearnance) and feeding him a non issue. Working with the media goes both ways, and now Mr Urbina has a motive to look deeper into the Ravenstahl administration in the future.

The Pittsburgh media has always struck me as tough but fair, especially the political coverage. After all, you want to be able to talk to the city's leaders in the future, so you can't blindside the Mayor or run with an uncorroborated story. The Mayor has now painted the Pittsburgh media to the nation as, what, an unrestrained and rude mob, not letting a guy enjoy a moments peace even at a football game or out on the golf links. What newspaper do you think most reporters read? Of course, a little bit of this mayor shows through in the story; he comes across as not well spoken the few times he’s directly quoted.

Its up to you guys how you take this, but no one would blame you if the gloves came off. The Mayor wants to lay low for the rest of the campaign, not take questions or inform the voters? How fair is that?

Char said...

Another thing Ravenstahl has not learned yet .... and maybe never will learn .... is no matter if you are right or if you are wrong, its just not a good idea to piss off the press.

Yes, he's portrayed Pgh media to the rest of the nation as rumor-mongering Paparazzi. But then again, if he cared about his long-term relationship with the press, he wouldn't have gone nuclear on Jeremy Boren and called the Trib "Yellow Journalists" back in July.

Anonymous said...

Why do I feel that Ravenstal will become a Jeff Habay redux. Immaturity?