City Desk

By Muzzling Public Safety Info On Twitter, Is The City Government Hurting Itself?

Sommer Mathis takes to the pages of the Atlantic Cities to talk about the decline of @dcfireems, the Twitter account for the District's fire department. On the removal of Pete Piringer, the fire department's public information officer, Mathis writes:

The hiring and firing of individual public information officers is the kind of story that only journalists care about. These are the people who reporters rely on to get back to us quickly with accurate information, and when they appear to lose their jobs for over-sharing with the media, it naturally rankles. Not only is it a sign that the current administration is interested in making it more difficult for reporters to do their jobs, but the best PIOs, like Piringer, tend to have personal relationships with the journalists they talk to everyday. Nothing can set off a wave of resentment across an entire press corps like the removal of a decent flack.

But this particular move by the District, to stem the tide of information coming out of the city's fire department, should alarm anyone who cares about transparency and responsiveness in local government. It's also part of a larger picture that's emerged over the last several months of the current administration's desire to keep crucial public safety information out of the hands of the public.

Piringer's @dcfireems tweets were useful in a more basic way, too. They painted a broad picture of the work that emergency respondents in D.C. do every day. From the frequent (and no longer tweeted) "Ped struck" and "Cyclist struck" messages to the notes about downed trees, it was a reminder that things in this city don't stop when your commute ends. It's a shame, that in the process of "protecting" itself, the city's government is making even its good work less visible.

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  • stinkinthinkin

    The city will find another white guy to replace Pete P at the Fire Dept/EMS, so have no fear because DC and Pee Gee County loves ,uh requires, WHITES only for these PIO jobs. PEPCO, will hire others and racism plays on and WHITES rule while BLACKS tool.

  • SE Slim

    Pete Piringer needed to go. Excellent job once again by Chief Ellerbe in finding the FAT and removing it from DC Fire EMS. Pete was over paid and underworked. He did nothing but used his government credit card on gas (for his take home SUV) food and alcoholic while chatting meaningless crap with (the good ol boys) his white media buddies. Pete was just another under-qualified redneck that was raping DC taxpayers PERIOD. The ride is over, go find some other city that will pay you big buck$ because you're good friends with washed up reporters like Dave (want to be firefighter) Statter and the likes. But be aware, times are a bit rough right now in the job market …Farewell old friend. Maybe Dennis Rubin has another high paying gig for you. Oh, I forgot he’s unemployed too. Well, I guess you’ll need to tap into the Kkklan retire fund.

  • DC Resident

    These race comments are really sad. It looks like rather than ending the race problems in this department (real or perceived), the new fire Chief has just taken up the other side of it. Very disappointing.

  • LOL

    The quality of the twitter account has absolutely declined. If he is doing all that, he fits in with the rest of the drinkers and pilferers at the fire department. But I guess they only want black crooks.