a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Monday, March 22, 2010

Following the president one tweet at a time

By Scott Beveridge

Pittsburgh’s sometimes-cocky Mayor Luke Ravenstahl threw a hissy fit last month when reporters had the nerve to question why he kept disappearing during a snowstorm that created a disaster in his city.

Their questions followed a ski trip he made to the mountains in advance of the storm that dumped 2 feet of snow, and rumors he later traveled to New Orleans for Mardi Gras as the region was still dealing with nasty weather.

The 30-year-old Democrat lashed out at them in front of television cameras, seeming quite naïve in suggesting the public doesn’t have a right to know the schedule he keeps when taxpayers pay his salary.

Maybe Ravenstahl should take a cue from the big man on his party’s campus, President Barack Obama, whose schedule is regularly posted throughout each day on the Web via tweets on Twitter.

They are "anonymously" posted under the username, WestWingReport, by a someone claiming to be a journalist with incredible access to the president.

The tweets often look like this:

President's Tuesday Schedule: 9:30-intelligence briefing; 10:00-economic briefing; 10:30-senior advisers;

Earlier today, one post took a more serious tone when it announced the FBI was investigating an Obama death threat made on Twitter in response to Sunday’s contentious House vote on health care reform.

An earlier tweet after the House approved that bill carried a link to the first photograph taken of Obama upon his learning the measure had been approved.

Sometimes the feed includes humor like this one referencing a Washington, D.C. bar prior to the big vote:

"If I were running the Hawk & Dove, I would raise the price of beer tonight. Those celebrating or downing their sorrows will pay up."

This dude even tweeted once when Obama disappeared from the public eye only to announce in a tweet upon the president’s return that he had ducked away to watch his daughter Sasha play basketball at her school.

For the record, I began to follow WestWingReport solely because it’s an interesting experiment in new media, and not as a way to lend my support to Obama's policies.

Even the moron who spat on U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., as the black congressman entered the Capitol to vote Sunday would have to admit that Americans have a vested interest in what the president is doing at any given moment of each day. OK, maybe that is wishful thinking on my part that racists have intelligence.

Regardless, we’ve come a long way since people gathered around their radios 30 times between 1933 and 1944 to hear President Franklin D. Roosevelt issue his historic fireside chats. Every president since has done weekly radio addresses, while Obama has chosen to regularly issue some of his on the Web via YouTube.

Meanwhile, back in Pittsburgh, what appears to be Ravenstahl’s official Twitter feed hasn’t been updated since Thanksgiving.

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