Updated at 6:30 p.m. below:
A report from the AJC’s Katie Leslie:
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed isn’t shy about his opinions, especially when it comes to journalists.
The mayor is known to take reporters and columnists to task on Twitter when he disagrees with their work or how he’s portrayed.
If he’s particularly upset, he’ll deploy his press team to take on a story with a press release and social media campaign. (Case in point? This city-issued statement from last fall about AJC opinion writer Kyle Wingfield’s columns on street vendors.)
And if he’s downright angry, he’ll go a step further and put journalists in time-out … on Twitter.
Reed made headlines in Creative Loafing this week for what the news outlet is coining the #KTB: “Kasim Twitter Block” — the mayor’s blocking of journalists on the social media site. The move doesn’t keep reporters from seeing the mayor’s tweets, as his page is public, but prevents their messages from appearing in his newsfeed (and vice-versa) or from retweeting the city leader’s posts.
The story comes on the heels of a guest Op-Ed CL ran July 9 about the Beltline’s debt to APS. The Reed administration — through Twitter and its press team — attacked the opinion piece as missing the mark on Reed’s stance, and questioned the credibility of the authors.
We’ve reached out to members of the mayor’s press team, and will add their thoughts when we hear back. But Reed himself offers a simple explanation in a follow-up tweet for why he goes on the offense:
Though CL reporters Thomas Wheatley and Max Blau didn’t write the piece, they were blocked after a Twitter tango with Reed himself.
Now, Blau has taken a roll-call of journalists who have been placed in Reed’s social media silo.
As you can see in the CL post, we’re no strangers to the #KTB.
Among the other journalists the mayor has blocked, CL tallies, are: Fox 5’s Dale Russell, Cox Media Group’s Justin Gray, GPB’s Jeanne Bonner, WABE’s Jim Burress and Rose Scott.
New material: Now, you might think the Reed administration would be shy about discussing the topic. Far from it. Following is an argument from Reed spokeswoman Anne Torres:
It’s often easy to forget that the news business is just that – a business. In the same way that a government is accountable to its constituency, journalists are accountable to the financial bottom line of advertisers, subscribers, and yes, online click-through rates. It’s this same competitive environment that also causes some journalists to push the envelope on integrity and reality.
No one who uses social media will deny that the Mayor has a comparable following to many news outlets such as Creative Loafing, who currently has 65,000 followers, and reporters including Max Blau and Thomas Wheatley, who have 3,300 followers and 2,700 followers respectively. And when some news outlets take the easy way out through overly biased or inaccurate reporting, the Mayor is able to respond through social media to an online audience of over 100,000 (59,000 followers on Twitter, 36,000 individuals on Facebook and 25,000 email subscribers). It’s not about getting “angry,” a charged term that some journalists have used to describe the Mayor’s reaction to inaccurate and misleading articles; it’s about responding to issues of importance and setting the record straight.
The reality is that as news organizations continue to grapple with new media, they are under tremendous pressure to create content, and increasingly some reporters are resorting to citing anyone as the source for their content. It’s not responsible, and the Mayor has every right to respond in a direct manner or disengage in instances where no value is being added from the conversation. That is one of the benefits of social media.
Mayor Reed and this administration don’t have a problem engaging when it’s appropriate. With so much energy spent by journalists upset being blocked on Twitter, it makes one wonder if these same journalists are actually appalled that someone is willing to stand up to them as so many citizens desire to do, but simply do not have the platform to do so.
Please understand that we welcome rebellious voices at all times in the comment section below.
Another update: Reed has unblocked at least one reporter: @katieleslienews