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.
Monday, October 8, 2007