Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Mayor Eric Garcetti is not too tied up to tweet

Eric Garcetti Twitter

Alice Walton/KPCC

Mayor Eric Garcetti scrolls through his Twitter feed looking for his favorite accounts.

If you're an Angeleno whose trash hasn't been picked up for days, who would you contact? The Bureau of Sanitation? Your city councilman? What about Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti?

That's what one woman did (@LoricidexDoom) via Twitter. And it worked, even after — or perhaps, because — she threatened to dump her trash outside the mayor's house. It's just one example of the mayor using social media to spread his "back to basics" message. 

"Whenever I have the chance or have a little break, I will look at my own account and try to respond to as many as I can or where it’s appropriate," Garcetti told KPCC during an interview in his office, which he, of course, tweeted about. 

A more buttoned-up account is maintained by staff at @LAMayorsOffice, but for the most part, Garcetti says he's behind the keyboard at @EricGarcetti. That sets him apart from most of his City Hall colleagues, whose Twitter accounts are maintained by staff members. 

"I don’t schedule Twitter time," said Garcetti, who is sometimes active online into the late evening. "I don’t cancel any meetings with general managers. I don’t stop the meetings that I have inside City Hall because of Twitter. You can’t be a slave to Twitter."

"You have to use it as one of many ways to communicate.” 

The  director of online communities program at USC’s Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism says that's one of the limitations of Twitter. A single tweet from Garcetti will reach just under 20,000 followers -- a small fraction of the nearly four million people who live in Los Angeles. 

"Twitter does reach only a segment of the population and it only reaches them for a few seconds at a time," said Karen North. "People see it as the panacea for communicating with people. We always have to remember that you have to find people where they are and not everybody’s there.” 

An example of that happened in July when the George Zimmerman verdict was announced in Florida. In the days following, protests started in parts of L.A. and the mayor sent out a tweet asking Angelenos to react peacefully. But it didn't work. A group split off from a peaceful protest in Leimert Park and attacked businesses, breaking windows and throwing objects. 

An hour after asking for a peaceful rally, the mayor sent a tweet that LAPD had declared an unlawful assembly. An hour after that, ended up addressing TV cameras on the 11 p.m. news. 

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