The Pittsburgh Police Bureau (and by extension the Ravenstahl administration) has pioneered a new way of responding to difficult press inquiries -- by copying them in full and reissuing them to every competing media outlet in town. (UPDATE: And getting national attention from the Romenesko report. See below.)
On Saturday, the P-G's Liz Navratil and Jon Silver had an important, exclusive story: 911 records showed Pittsburgh Police were dispatched to a home in Larimer on New Year's Eve, spoke through a window to a man who wouldn't let them in, and then left. The next day police found Ka'Sandra Wade, 33, fatally shot at the home apparently by the same man, who had killed himself after a police standoff. The two reporters emailed police spokeswoman Diane Richard a series of questions on police policies on the matter. (Richard prefers to communicate by email.)
At 6:37 p.m. Richard released a citywide statement saying police Chief Nate Harper was looking into the incident, to which she appended all of Navratil & Silver's emailed questions, thereby giving more than 100 other reporters/editors the details in the Post-Gazette's story. (It wasn't a "reply-all" goof, in other words. The statement, attached below, seems to indicate the police chief wanted the P-G's email distributed.) Within a half-hour the Trib had a web story up, and the P-G put up its own a couple minutes later. There was TV coverage as well.
The police bureau is overseen by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration, which did not comment to the P-G reporters.
UPDATE from Ravenstahl spokeswoman Joanna Doven:
Please understand that I did respond to Jonathon Silver several times via email Saturday evening, letting him know that it was under investigation and that the police would be responding saying that as such. There is nothing more the "mayor" or "public safety director" could or would say than what the police chief already said. Saying I (or the administration) did not respond is not accurate.
Note: Doven did not respond when asked if the mayor approved of the chief's decision to release the correspondence.
UPDATE 2: Romenesko.com published the following just before 2 pm today, with comment from P-G executive editor David Shribman:'
The Pittsburgh Police Department on Sunday put out a press release that included two Post-Gazette reporters' email with several questions about a New Year's Day murder-suicide.
Diane Richard, the department's public information officer, emailed the release to about 200 journalists in the Pittsburgh area.
Post-Gazette executive editor David Shribman tells Romenesko readers:
"This is probably unprecedented and certainly unprofessional. It is a horrifying, disrespectful departure from every interchange I have had, or been witness to, with public-relations professionals in four decades in journalism."