Category Archives: Annoying Burghers

Wendy Bell is not going to Make It.

I haven’t been this pissed off since Luke Ravenstahl spent a quarter of a million dollars on 250 trash cans with his name on them.

Wendy Bell has started a new Facebook page after her recent firing from WTAE and the subsequent removal of her WTAE-branded Facebook page. Her new Facebook page, in which she lets us know she hasn’t slept for a week because she is some kind of supernatural vampire being who doesn’t need sleep to stay alive, was announced by Ms. Bell herself on Twitter two days ago, but it just started getting shared today:

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Hashtag Pittsburgh Strong are you kidding me right now Wendy Bell I cant even use punctuation or anything because Im so dumbfounded and stunned and I swear Im going to do it I am going to flip a table so hard.

#bostonstrong … after the Boston Marathon terrorist bombings took lives.

#FRstrong … after the stabbings at Franklin Regional High School.


No. No. No.

You do not come back from a crushing wave of criticism in which huge swaths of people informed you of how self-centered you sounded, how out-of-touch you seemed, how you managed to make EVERYTHING ALL ABOUT YOU … and usurp THAT hashtag for yourself because you’ve gone and started a new FACEBOOK.

In doing so, you have fulfilled the prophecy. You have now become the thing they accused you of being. You are now the Queen of Self-Centered. You are now the High Priestess of Out of Touch. You are now the DREAD DARTH DOOM OF ALL ABOUT ME.

PittsburghStrong is the three hero cops who were brutally murdered in the line of duty on this day seven years ago.

PittsburghStrong is Pitt’s James Conner throwing out the first pitch in the midst of his cancer battle yesterday.

PittsburghStrong was John Challis.

PittsburghStrong was Adam Frey.

PittsburghStrong is Genre Baker.

PittsburghStrong are Jamie and Ali McMutrie and their DECADE-long devotion to Haitian children.

Google them, Wendy. They are PittsburghStrong.

PittsburghStrong is not you. It is not “I got fired for writing a kinda racist thing, but I started a new Facebook and I’m rising from the ashes of the fire I set to my own career like a fucking majestic Phoenix, so give me a follow, you unthinking puppets. #PittsburghStrong!”

Until you realize why what you wrote was wrong, and until you realize why how you dealt with what you wrote was wrong, and until you realize how you seemingly still do not understand why what you wrote and how you dealt with it was wrong, and until you stop making everything all about you, and until you realize your OWN fault in causing every sleep-depriving “woe is me” thing you’ve tacked to the cross you think you bear … you have no hope of ever being #PittsburghStrong.

PittGirl out.

A rant.

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This morning, as the terrifying and tragic events (prayers for them) at Franklin Regional High School unfolded, my Twitter feed shit the bed.

It didn’t just shit the bed, it shit the bed, puked in it, then left a horse head in it before lighting the bed on fire.

If my Twitter feed this morning was an image, it would have been this:


If it was a gif, it would have been this:

panicIf it was a cat, it would have been this:


Events unfolded as every local media outlet began crawling over each other, pushing each other to be first on the scene. First with details. First with pictures.


Each minute ticked by with my feed filling up with dozens and dozens of tweets.

Marty Griffin hashtagged all of his tweets about the tragedy with #getmarty.

One reporter hashtagged his with #schoolshooting

“I’m hearing …”

“We’ve heard …”

“Sources say …”

#WPXI #schoolstabbing

5, 10, 6, 14, 20. (Aren’t these the Lost numbers?)

20 stabbed.

20 injured.

Not life-threatening.

Four are life-threatening.

Seven are life-threatening. 

None are life-threatening. 

Only students.

One teacher. 

“We’re hearing bullying is a factor…”

Outside during a fire drill.

Inside after someone pulled a fire alarm.

All being taken to Forbes.

Five being taken to Children’s.

All being taken to six different hospitals. 

Principal tackled suspect.

Vice-principal tackled suspect.

Assistant principal tackled suspect. 

Reporters retweeting colleagues retweeting other colleagues. Sports and weather reporters tweeting details. Not one single tweet mentioning a source.

MADNESS. Complete and utter clusterfucky online madness that trickled down to on-air madness.

Social media is newish, but it’s not so new that local media outlets shouldn’t have a plan in place for handling developing news like this. The exact same way they have a plan in place for ON-AIR and IN-PRINT developing news stories.

Media folks who want to defend this morning’s mess, you must ask yourselves this question: If this is not okay in the live studio, why is it okay online?

Does your station allow 17 reporters and three anchors to crowd the floor of the live set and start shouting over each other and into the camera like desperate stockbrokers on the trading floor their version of the facts as they’re hearing them? “I’m hearing six! Over to weather! Well, I’m hearing five over here at weather! Over to sports! We’re hearing 10 over at sports! Traffic? My Facebook friend’s mother’s cousin’s sisterwife says 20 but my brother’s concubine says 19! And that guy behind the camera is hearing 4! Wait! Wait! –”

No. They don’t allow that. They manage the information as it comes in and filter it down before allowing the anchor to read it — and even that allows misinformation to fall through the cracks. But they attempt to manage the information.

It seems, however, that they believe social media means no rules, so you’ve got two dozen Twitter-verified reporters from WPXI tweeting and retweeting and 10 from WTAE and 11 from KDKA and add in the radio folks who are tweeting what they’re hearing from the TV folks, and add in the newspaper folks, and the producers and the cameramen and the editors, and the people working in the business offices, and I’m telling you guys, you guys running the media, this is broken.

This is so so broken.

Station managers figure they don’t control social media. Hands off. Everyone out for themselves, even if we’ve made sure you’ve got the blue checkmark next to your name verifying that you’re our representative. Tweet what you find … even if it’s unverified. Even if your source is the lunch lady’s third cousin. Even if you’re just retweeting your colleague who mistakenly hashtagged this story as a school shooting. Even if you’re retweeting your colleague who is claiming bullying is involved while not really knowing if bullying is involved. Even if you’re retweeting your colleague who says 20 were stabbed when 20 were INJURED. We can’t know who everyone is following, and everyone is not following the same two reporters, so we’ll just let every single damn one of you tweet anything you can get your hands on and we’ll feed that straight to the anchors and we’ll let them just run with that shit, amen. 

I’m getting a little punchy, yes. I’m sorry. But I haven’t been writing my shit for here for nine years to make friends. Hell, I’m an introvert; friends are exhausting.

I’m aware it was worse for people like me who follow multiple reporters from multiple outlets (though I went on a nice unfollow spree this morning, as I should have done after the local media basically tweeted a play-by-play on how the McCandless mother drowned her sons), but I’m guessing that even those of you who only follow a few saw exactly what I’m talking about. Insane, intense retweeting. “Follow this person at our station for the facts! No! Follow this person! We realize he’s the sports reporter, but follow him too! And this guy, he’s the producer of a two-hour block of the news, but follow him for ‘facts!'”

No. No no no no no.

This is not how it needs to work and it’s not helping the story, the situation, or the station/paper/outlet. It’s hurting all of those things, even the on-air reporting.

I’m not here to just complain, I’m here to offer a solution to fix this mess because guess what? It can be fixed.

It can be fixed with three words: MANAGE. THE. MESSAGE.

You’re running WPXI? A major breaking news story happens? You get all your best reporters out there on foot and on the phone and on the web to collect information and do their jobs. And you pick one, maybe two of them to be the official tweeter of this particular story, or you have your official verified main account do it. Any other employee on Twitter will then tweet only ONE THING regarding this story: “We’re on top of this story. Follow @name and @name for the official details.” And they will RT ONLY that account or accounts.

That’s it.

Then they shut the hell up and do their jobs and if they’re assigned to this story, they feed their info and their sources to those two people who are now responsible for determining what will be reported on the official social media account.

Manage the message.


Managing the message would increase your followers, you know why? Because you’re not destroying us viewers and readers and listeners with information that may not even be correct. You’re not having reporters crawling all over each other in the name of FIRST! You’re not having mass unfollowings because we the people are fed up with you the breaking news media.

What you end up with are trusting followers who know you’re going to funnel the raw information in some fashion. That you’re going to manage the information put out there by your employees. You’re virtually pulling everyone off the set and leaving your two trusted anchors to talk with the public. You’re Peter Jennings-ing a Jerry Springer fiasco. 

You end up with reporters, no longer obsessed with first!, putting away Twitter and working to get the best possible information from the best possible sources so that they can feed you that CORRECT information and get rewarded.

So instead of the virtual shouting match you’ve allowed your reporters to devolve into … instead of all of us unfollowing all of you for the 4! 3! 6! 20! 10! nonsense, you end up with one account that tweets this and reports this on the news: “Our reporter @name has confirmed with [source] that the number of injured currently stands at [number].”

“Our reporter @name2 has confirmed with [source] that the number of injured has risen to [number.]”

“Our reporter @name3 has confirmed with [source] that the injured are being transported to [number] hospitals.”

Message. Managed.

Gold star and endless RTs and follows and respect for you.

Unfollows with great Thor-like gusto for everyone else.


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In which I line up UPMC and Highmark and I bitchslap them both to Mars


I cannot take another newspaper ad or another ridiculous scary-sounding television commercial by either Highmark or UPMC. Like, I haven’t been this stabby since Mayor Luke learned what a hashtag is.

I am sick of both of them. I don’t care who wins at this point, because they’re both going to lose; King Solomon is going to cut their baby in half.

I let them have it over at Pittsburgh Magazine.  

A snippet:

We are not opening the Sunday paper to read these ads in the hopes of finally coming down on either side of the fence. I hate to tell you this, but there is no fence. It’s like the final three days leading up to an important election when we are mercilessly bombarded with scary-sounding ads at every turn. We start to hate everyone, even the person we’re going to vote for. We would get sick of our own father’s face if he was the one running for office. “Not this guy again. Ugh.”

Go read my message to UPMC and Highmark. Spread it. Share it. Make sure everyone reads it so that it will reach who it needs to at Highmark and UPMC and their eyes will open and they’ll say, “Wait. So you’re saying THE COMMERCIALS AND ADS ARE MAKING YOU HATE BOTH OF US?! HOW CAN THIS BE?!? WE THOUGHT YOU WERE DUMBER THAN THAT! WHERE IS MY SECURITY BLANKIE MADE OF STITCHED-TOGETHER HUNDRED DOLLAR BILLZ?!”

It is time for the ad war to stop and working toward a solution to start, and that’s not going to happen until they realize I am speaking the truth. So let them hear it. 

We’re sick of both of ya, Highmark and UPMC. At this point, we’re rooting for an asteroid.

A big one.


UPMC has zero employees, huge balls.


Groups. Subsidiaries. Conglomerates. Amalgamation. Brain explosion.

Let’s have a quiz. Are the following excerpts about UPMC from a Post-Gazette article or an article from the satirical news site The Onion:

  • But UPMC itself? “We don’t have employees,” Mr. Pietragallo said.
  • Mr. Wood said he sees no contradiction when UPMC claims it employs 55,000 people in marketing and business materials — and no one in court.
  • He did not know which subsidiary employed him nor UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff.

Of course they’re from the Post-Gazette because this is about UPMC and it seems lately UPMC sees the border of Ridiculous and says, “Let’s just step over that line and head fully into the Territory of ABSOLUTE BONKERS whose capital city is Loophole Heaven.”

As a refresher, UPMC is being sued by the City of Pittsburgh to have its charitable organization status revoked. This means they would no longer be exempt from property and wage taxes. UPMC is now claiming that since it technically has no employees, it cannot be sued for wage taxes. No wages. No wage taxes. No lawsuit. Magic! [throws confetti]

UPMC has clearly been protecting itself from such a lawsuit for years in that it seems to indeed pay all employees through one of its 37 subsidiaries — even their corporate employees who have no association with any specific hospital. As one UPMC corporate-employed reader put it, “My badge says ‘UPMC Corporate Services,’ but my paystub says Presby.”

That person does not work at UPMC Presby, but his paystub says he’s paid by that subsidiary, certainly lending support to UPMC’s claim it has no real employees — just 55,000 people scattered around 37 subsidiaries and therefore, the city’s lawsuit should be thrown out.

I assume the entirety of corporate upper-management at UPMC walks around in shirts that say, “Keep Calm and Loophole On.”

I get this is how the corporate world operates, but in this case UPMC is being beyond absurd to the point that it is almost insulting to the residents of the city of Pittsburgh and the employees of their 37 subsidiaries, of which Jeffrey Romoff doesn’t even know which is issuing his seven-figure paycheck, apparently.

Here’s why it’s insulting and absurd. Here’s a snapshot from the I-990 form via that “UPMC Group” filed in 2012 which showed a reported income of $7.7 billion:


How can UPMC claim to have zero employees and that their widely self-reported 55,000 number is just a “marketing number,” when they officially filed with the Internal Revenue Service claiming they employ 52,000 as a group?

0 = 52,000?

Is this new math? Did they forget to regroup? Carry the billion? Solve for X where X = “How the hell can we get ourselves out of this mess?”

You can have zero employees … or you can have 55,000 employees. You cannot have BOTH zero and 55,000 employees and then just choose which number suits you best for certain circumstances. I mean loopholes are great and all, but at some point, you’re just trying to defy the laws of mathematics and possibly physics and for all I know, gravity.

I’m not a corporate accountant. I’m not a lawyer. I’m a Pittsburgher. And as a Pittsburgher and a human with a brain in her head, I am qualified to tell you that this is farcical and insulting and it will only serve to generate even greater ill-will toward UPMC than currently exists among the public who already imagine UPMC as King Kong squashing any puny entity that dares approach its territory.

Who knows what will hold up in the court of law, but in the court of public opinion, this “we have no employees” defense will not stand. It will serve only to anger, because this is how we non-accountant, non-lawyer Burghers are looking at it:

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That or, “I actually have no hands. It’s all a mirage.”

Stop this nonsense and get to work proving you’re a charity, UPMC. Because if you really are, this creative legal maneuvering wouldn’t even be necessary.

Math is hard. The truth is easy.

The Cultural Trust versus Joe Wos. It’s on.


For an issue that shouldn’t have really had a clear winner or loser, The Cultural Trust has done a bang-up job of mucking up its little tiff with the Toonseum’s Joe Wos to the point that guess what? The Toonseum is coming out the winner.

Good job good effort, Cultural Trust.

Back to the beginning.

[How I Met Your Mother SWOOOOOSH]

First, by writing this, I’ll probably get on the Trust’s bad side. And you’re like, “Does the Trust really have a bad side?” As I’m about you show you, it does. It has a dark side. It has a SQUASH THE PUNY HUMANS side. It has a horse-in-your-bed side. I’m exaggerating.

Here’s what I know:

1. Artist Florentijn Hofman created an installation in 2007 called … ready … The Rubber Duck Project. In his effort to bring “joy” to cities and to MAKE SHITLOADS OF MONEY, he created an enormous rubber duck (really an inflatable) that has appeared in a dozen cities. Each city, from what I can gather, basically builds its own duck at Mr. Hofman’s instructions/bidding. Each one is a different size. For instance, ours needs to fit under certain bridges lest schoolchildren witness a duck beheading. Sydney, Australia commissioned and still owns theirs.

2. The Trust contacted Hofman and he agreed to bring the duck (or rather allow a duck to be built) to Pittsburgh for the Trust’s Festival of Firsts.

3. Pittsburgh freaked out in excitement. Our rivers graced by the duck, making its first appearance in America. Suck it, Portland. [rocker kick] The duck will be here next Friday.

4. The Trust has possibly invested “several hundred thousand dollars” in this installation (I’ve emailed the Trust with this question. If they respond, I’ll update the post). What I don’t know is if that’s just the artist’s fee or if that’s the artist fee combined with building fees and logistics like transporting the duck, security, etc. Either way, the artist is MAKING A SHITLOAD OF MONEY. But he says he just wants to bring joy and public art to the people. But he’s seriously making bank here. Dollah dollah billz.

The Trust is also going to make money off of this investment via merchandise sales, sponsorships, and the fact that the duck is basically a giant advertisement for their Festival of Firsts and other forthcoming shows that fall under the Trust’s umbrella.

5. The Toonseum is, according to Wos, “doing an exhibition of Rubber Ducks working with a company that has been producing them for over a decade. And exhibiting art of cartoon ducks that predate this big rubber duck by 70 years in some case.”

Seeing a chance for promotion, Wos created a shirt featuring a rubber duck, very similar to the Hofman duck, and put it up for sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Toonseum:

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He started taking pre-orders and the Trust responded in calm, measured fashion.


6. Joe received an email as follows from the Trust’s vice president of marketing and communications:

Hello Joe,

It was surprising to see the attached Facebook post on the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s website attempting to sell Rubber Duck tee shirts with a representation of the Rubber Duck Project that the Cultural Trust is presenting. Further, messaging that ‘proceeds of the tee shirts are going to benefit Toonseum’ is a major problem for us.

When you had inquired as to whether we would have official merchandise, the answer was yes. You were at no point given permission from the Trust to produce Rubber Duck tees of your own.

You may be unaware of the magnitude of our investment in this project. The artist also has a very high stake in maintaining the brand of the Rubber Duck and have asked us to help stop the very activity that Toonseum is undertaking. We have contacted other organizations that have attempted their own knock off merchandise but it is unexpected that a partner in the Cultural District would try to use our investment for profit and to further fundraise off of another organization’s presentation is truly flabbergasting.

Kevin is extremely unhappy as are many senior staff members at the Trust.

We ask that you cease and desist the selling of this unauthorized merchandise.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

First, “maintaining the brand of the Rubber Duck?”

It’s a big rubber duck. It’s not an original concept.

Here’s one in an old episode of the PowerPuff Girls Z, which Joe used as inspiration when drawing his duck:


Video here. 

Capitalizing the first letter of something doesn’t make it a brand, otherwise, I’d like to say I have a high stake in maintaining the brand of Nutella Hoover.

7. Joe responded:

Marc, just to be clear are you asking that we change the image of the rubber duck to one that looks less like the rubber duck by the artist?

This is the perfect response. It’s a rubber duck and the artist wants to protect his version of the rubber duck (which isn’t really his version as you’ll see), so if Joe were to make the rubber duck look like ANY ONE OF THESE RUBBER DUCK SHIRTS, then would the Trust be cool with that?


Marc’s response is a non-response:


Toonseum is directly referencing the Rubber Duck installation in your messaging and asking people to show their Pittsburgh spirit by purchasing a tee shirt representing that art installation for profit and fundraising.

Turn it around… How would you feel if an organization started knocking off merch for a Toonseum exhibition (that you invested your blood, sweat and tears into) and then sold that unauthorized merch against your own merchandise on Toonseum’s Facebook page?

Frankly, the ill-will that this is causing is not worth whatever dollars you’ll make.

I’ll ask Kevin to continue this conversation with you.

I hope that a positive outcome can be attained since this is not good for either organization. 



This would be more valid if it wasn’t just a simple rubber duck. It’s not an original creation in any way, shape or form. What about the guy who invented the rubber duck in the late 19th century? How does his family feel about this art? Not only that, City Paper reveals that guess what? The artist admittedly simply enlarged a duck already sold by DuckTolo Toys!

He didn’t even create that particular duck!

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If the artist had created some Phineas and Ferb-esque insane contraption that floated on the river, pulled in river water and turned it into wine and glitter before shooting it out of a cannon, then maybe the Toonseum shouldn’t make a “SHOOT WINE AND GLITTER OUT YOUR BUTT N’AT!” shirt.

But it’s a duck. A rubber duck.

And no matter how much you capitalize it, it’s still just a rubber duck, Ernie.

8. Joe refused to pull down the shirt, and instead informed the public that the Trust had sent him a cease and desist, at which time … VIRAL HAPPENED.

Yes, a little shirt that probably would have sold like 5 copies, is instead appearing on every single media outlet and is burning up local social media like a bag of cotton balls set on fire with the flames of the sun. Most everyone is on the Toonseum’s side on this one. Because … I can’t stress this enough … it’s a rubber duck. And because we always cheer for the little guy.

9. Not only that, the digital artist for the Cultural Trust, Brian Nichols, used his personal account to post on the Toonseum’s Facebook page to vent:


Holy quap, indeed.

10. Now, here’s my thoughts on this.

First, you can buy your own giant inflatable rubber duck and stick it on the river until the police shoot holes in it.

Buy yours here!

Second, I wouldn’t have a problem if the Trust asked Joe to change the image to look different from THE Rubber Duck. It’s valid. They’ve invested in that particular version of the duck; make your own version and sell it in your shop. But instead the Trust is just stomping their feet and being incredibly stubborn for an organization that is currently promoting and making money off of an unsanctioned by J.K. Rowling UNAUTHORIZED HARRY POTTER PLAY. 

Third, I compare this to the vendors who sell “Pirates” gear near the ballpark. You’ll notice nothing actually says Pirates. Instead the hat will be black and gold and it will say “Pittsburgh.” The Pirates have invested tons of money into their own merchandise, but even they know sending a cease and desist to generic black and gold pirate-themed merchandisers is a losing game.  Besides, other than those who are looking to save a few bucks, most want the AUTHENTIC merchandise. We want Cole’s name on our backs. We want the angry pirate dude on it. We want the sweet P. Likewise, the Trust should have realized the market for their official merchandise will be fantastic, with or without one knockoff shirt being sold in a tiny museum down the street.

11. What should have happened? The Trust should have asked Joe to cease and desist using THAT particular duck and Joe would have complied. He would have made it a more generic rubber duck and sold 30 shirts, if that. The official merchandise, which is AWESOME, would have sold thousands and thousands. 

Instead, the Trust is going after all duck-themed merchandise that could be sold in conjunction with their forthcoming installation, angering the public.

By their own fault, it’s now viral and it’s a Big Deal. And since I capitalized it, you know I mean business.

I don’t even want to know what the Trust will do when they see this site, which has been selling duck merchandise since 2009:

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Probably this:



And not just because of the Comic Sans.

12. And finally, to the Trust I say, “Frankly, the ill-will that this is causing is not worth whatever dollars you’ll make.”

That’s my take on it. What do you think?

Please don’t comment with “This is low, Ginny … just low.”