Pittsburgh Media Report: How A Social Media Mistake Proved Costly


A recent mistake on Twitter cost our author a job. (Photo: Matt Gajtka)

A recent mistake on Twitter cost our author a job. (Photo: Matt Gajtka)

Welcome to the Pittsburgh Media Report, a regular feature here on City of Champions. Read the previous edition here.

We’re still in the early stages of the Pittsburgh Media Report, and if I’m to be trusted in the analyst role, I need to be forthcoming about my own mistakes in the sports media realm.

Conveniently, I just make a big one.

Say what you will about New Year’s resolutions, but I have resolved to do something uncomfortable each day in 2014, with the thought that growth comes through pain. The typical human reflex would be to cover up errors and pretend they didn’t happen, so in the confessional spirit I’m going to open up.

(As Jerry told George on a famous Seinfeld episode, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite must be right.”)

Some of you may know this, but in addition to my work here at CoC, I had a job covering mainly high school sports for one of the largest media companies in the Midwest. That’s right, I had a job, as in past tense.

I was recently fired for a stupid joke I make on Twitter regarding the name of one of the athletes we covered. Not that it matters that much, but the player’s last name is synonymous with a part of the male anatomy and the first name has the sound of a painful verb.

While making and taking calls on a slow night in the office, I tweeted that “we have a new candidate for name of the year,” followed by the name and the word “ouch.” Ouch, indeed.

One would expect that someone like me, who’s worked as a public relations/media director for two hockey teams and is well aware of the reach of social media, wouldn’t ever tweet something like that. But I did, and I didn’t even hesitate.

I have a few theories about why I did it. The best one: I use my Twitter account primarily to comment on Pittsburgh sports and share links to articles, so it didn’t cross by mind that posting something flippant regarding my other job would be harmful, even though it should have been obvious. In short, it was a juvenile attempt to be funny, and it cost me.

I still can’t believe I threw away more than 18 months of work on some half-baked joke. I write about it partially to unburden myself, but also to deliver a cautionary tale. For as long as I can rememeber, my first instinct has always been to toe the line and be careful, and even that didn’t save me from messing up.

This sounds trite, but you never know where your thoughts will end up as you peck away on a keyboard. I thought I fully grasped that, but I still treated another human as an ill-conceived punch line. When I realized what I did, I apologized to the student’s family, but I expected to be punished harshly.

I consider myself an intelligent person, but I did a stupid thing. My mistake doesn’t define me, but I have to live with it.

You Should Know: Shedding light across the Pittsburgh sports scene

One of the things I’d like to do regularly in this column is highlight some of the solid members of the Pittsburgh media you may not know. (If you have a suggestion, please let me know on Twitter or via email at [email protected])

As you may have seen last weekend, Larry Snyder and I had the opportunity to cover the second annual Three Rivers Classic hockey tournament at Consol Energy Center. By virtue of our seating arrangement on the press level, we got to know and appreciate the persepctive of Ian Altenbaugh.

Altenbaugh is the Eastern Conference editor for the prospects website Hockey’s Future, where he also writes regularly on the Pittsburgh Penguins. I also found him very insightful in a recent piece on Pens Initiative that discussed Pens trade rumors. From personal experience, Ian was very observant at the Three Rivers Classic and I came away with a better idea of what I just witnessed because I was within earshot.

Line of the Week: Honoring the best, the brightest and the strangest

Penguins TV analyst Bob Errey took home the first Line of the Week prize with his Olympic-themed observations on Evgeni Malkin, but this week’s award pertains to the end of the Steelers’ latest season. (Once again, let me know if you see or hear anything that stands out.)

I hate to cop out, but I particularly enjoyed two separately segments of Dejan Kovacevic‘s Sunday evening Steelers column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. No. 1 was the headline: “Steelers’ luck ran dry, but not well.” I’m not sure if Kovacevic helped the Trib editorial staff in crafting the title, but it perfectly described the highs and lows of a dramatic Week 17 for Pittsburgh.

The money line of the column, though, could be found further down the page:

This wasn’t the best edition of the Steelers, to be kind, but you had better believe it was among the most resilient.

No matter what you think about the Steelers’ second straight 8-8 season, it’s tough to disagree with that.




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