Questioning Twits, Tweets, and Twats

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By Steven T. Jones

I still can’t get a straight answer to why Mayor Gavin Newsom blocked me on Twitter. On Saturday, the Chronicle prominently ran a story on Newsom blocking me and four others (including the League of Young Voters) and let Newsom’s political consultant Eric Jaye say it was because we were “flaming” him.

Yet as anyone who looks at my Twitter log can see, I sent Newsom just one message: “Why do you think Twitter is a good communication medium for you?” Now is that a “flame,” or a legitimate question by a journalist preparing to discuss the mayor’s new communications tool on a television show on the subject?

So the Chron’s Erin Allday lets Jaye get away with a direct lie that was easy to disprove and doesn’t contact me for a reaction. She did, however, ask me whether Newsom blocked me, indicating that it was probably Jaye who blocked me and then fed her the story, which she wrote without raising questions about our thin-skinned mayor’s commitment to public accountability, press freedom, and open democratic debate.

Neither Allday nor Jaye has returned my calls, but Newsom’s press secretary Nathan Ballard this morning finally responded to a pair of messages that I sent him on Friday, once again offering bewildering insults rather than doing the job taxpayers pay him for.

Me: Why did Gavin Newsom block me on Twitter?

Nate: I haven't asked him. Generally we DNFTT.

Me: Can you ask him? And what does DNFTT mean?

Nate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll

Me: You're still not making sense. I'm a journalist who covers the mayor. I never "flamed" him on Twitter, as Eric Jaye implied, and following his posts isn't "trolling." The only thing I ever sent Newsom was this: "Why do you think Twitter is a good communication medium for you?"
That's an honest, legitimate question. Not flaming, or trolling, or any other hipster techie lingo you want to use. So my question remains: Why did the mayor block me? Was it because I pointed out on City Desk that he can't spell very well?

BTW, this is far from the first time that Team Newsom has tried to punish and excommunicate journalists they don't like. KGO-TV's Dan Noyes got shut out by Newsom after running critical pieces, the folks at Streetsblog say they can't get calls back after criticizing Newsom, and we at the Guardian have gotten dropped from Newsom media notification list twice before, restored only after instructing Ballard that it's not legal for public figures to discriminate among media outlets, a precedent from the case JA Savage vs. PG&E that was written by Newsom's father, Judge William Newsom.

But Team Newsom apparently thinks that they're just too cool and tech-savvy to bother with us old school print journalists. Like Karl Rove, they write their own reality and then use deceptive spin and sock puppets to counter their critics. And this from a team that aspires to the governor's office. Scary.

Comments

Bob

I forgot that we are in High School - and that writing about someone blocking you on twitter is considered journalism.
You guys really work hard on maintaining the professionalism and maturity levels dont you..

Posted by Bob on Mar. 30, 2009 @ 10:47 am

Bob, it's not about high-school games, it's about a journalist being "cut off" from a public official's communication stream. I personally find it troubling whenever a politician tries to evade and avoid investigative journalism. This twitter issue may not be the most important thing facing our city, but it's certainly indicative of the Newsom administration's paranoid inability to communicate with city residents.

Posted by SfResident on Mar. 30, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

Newsom is afraid of everything, but especislly not moving to the next level --- like not becoming governor, then president. His consultants shield him in a plastic bubble (lined with money) from the rest of us, and let him out only after giving him another bright idea that will set us all up for the next election (like supporting Gay marriage;a great idea, but no courage there, really, if you look deep and consider Gay Marriage is inevitable; it's a civil right for god's sake). Newsom's fear of people and everything was clearly observable when, while running for Mayor, He also ran away from homeless people out of an elevator in City Hall. KPFA carried this story. Perhaps you weren;t around then, Steve. Bu, then perhaps you created this story, and the rhetorical question you asked Newsom to make a point. If so, what's the point? The point seems to be that Newsom is afraid of everybody and everything, and we are all being manipulated, to one degree or another, by this dumbass mayor who never should have been elected in the first place. Y'think?

Posted by carol harvey on Mar. 31, 2009 @ 11:13 am

My question wasn't rhetorical, but one that I hoped he would answer. Twitter seems a little superficial to me, but they had been touting it as the next big thing (Jaye even predicted the next governor's race would be the first "Twitter election"), so I was curious why Newsom considered it to be such a good communication medium for his message. Was it an admission that his ideas can easily and regularly to boiled down to just 140 characters? Was it a deliberate effort to bypass the media? Does he think Facebook "friends" and Twitter "followers" translate directly into votes?
BTW, I do appreciate SFresident's response to Bob, because this really isn't about Twitter or me or anyone's feelings getting hurt. It's about whether the city's top elected official feels accountable to the public, which including the tens of thousands of Guardian readers that I represent. When the mayor cuts me off for challenging his policies, that's an affront to democracy that has a chilling effect on other journalists, including the mayor's beat reporter for the Chron that they fed the story of blocking me to.
Politicians love to trade access and insider info for sympathetic coverage, and the Chron has always been particularly susceptible to that ploy. I watch the games that Ballard plays, pitting Chron, Examiner and other reporters against each other, or punishing them for things they write or say on TV (he has even shut out journalists after finding Facebook pictures showing that the socialize with me). This kind of behavior by people on the public payroll should shock our democratic sensibilities, and it says something about our political expectations that it doesn't.
We at the Guardian don't pull punches to maintain our relationships with those in power. Instead, we expect public officials to answer our questions and share their documents and other communications, because that's our political and legal system. Our refusal to play their games is a stand that often makes our jobs more difficult, particularly when politicians go so far as to proactively shut us out of their messaging or refuse to take our calls. It's the only way we know to maintain our credibility as we speak truth to power.

But maybe we should rethink that. Hell, maybe we should just endorse Gavin Newsom and get back into their good graces. What do you think?

Posted by Steven T. Jones on Mar. 31, 2009 @ 2:03 pm