Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reporting in the Burghosphere, 2010

Pittsburgh City Paper Editor Chris Potter raises some interesting questions about the relationship between the news media and Pittsburgh's blogosphere during this week's "where's the mayor" controversy. I spent most of yesterday in Johnstown and wasn't present for the mayor's news conference. My observations here are intended to address Chris' blog post on the topic.

Tuesday I was using Twitter to report updates on John Murtha's funeral when JanePitt (Virginia Montanez) sent me the following question:

JanePitt: "Is Luke there? Heard a rumor he went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans today".

Note that I did not tell her the rumor to her-- she asked me about it-- at a time when it was already being discussed by the public on Twitter.

My response back via Twitter direct message was:

bobmayo: "did not see him at Murtha funeral. I've been hearing that rumor since last night. Doven denies. No 1sthand sightings yest or now"

(The syntax and spelling is a forced result of Twitter's 140 character limit.)

Reporters answer viewer and reader questions about news stories all of the time. If anyone -- not just the blogger formerly known as PittGirl -- asks me a question about a story I'm tweeting, I answer it. If they ask it in the public Twitter stream, I answer there -- but if they ask via Twitter direct message, I answer back the same way. Virginia Montanez may have characterized that as a "source" -- but it wasn't anonymous and I dealt in fact, not in rumor.

Though reporters were making inquiries about the mayor's whereabouts, it was City Council's concern about his availability to sign an extension of the snow emergency that made first made news on Tuesday. The tact taken by the mayor's office in order to "make a point" to the media appears to have fueled more reporter interest in getting to the facts. No mainstream media referenced "New Orleans" or "Mardi Gras" until the mayor made his own headlines with his chastising of reporters during the news conference.

I do enjoy reading Chris' work and listening to his Wednesday appearances with Lynn Cullen online. I'll have to download today's session via iTunes to hear if they discuss this topic.

Virginia Montanez, meanwhile, has moved on to again taking up the cause of the BRESMA orphans in Haiti.


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