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Friday, July 13, 2012

Media outlets shine light on fireflies ... and other updates

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2012 at 4:00 PM

As the workweek winds down, here's an update to our recent piece on the leadership debate at the Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh. After a July 12 meeting, our very own Lauren Daley tells us, the club has a new leader -- at least for now.

Long-time member Audrey Glickman was elected to chair the group until its November elections for leadership. That move resolves some tensions stemming from the fact that Jim Sheppard, a special assistant to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, had thrown his own hat in the ring to lead the group.

While the club has long struggled to retain leaders, some Stein members feared their club's independence might be weakened by Sheppard's political ties -- and his affiliation with the Steel City Stonewall Democrats, which like the Stein club is a pro-LGBT group.

In an e-mail, Glickman says that at the meeting, Sheppard stated "he understood the hesitance ... of the members, that he is glad to be a member and will be an actively participating one, and that he was withdrawing his name from consideration" as a leader.

That left Glickman's name on the ballot, and she was unanimously elected by about 12 Stein club members at the meeting. Glickman says she's ready to hit the ground running.

"The active participation of the [Stein Club] in coordination with our sister organizations across the region is very important to the coming election," Glickman says.

At the same meeting, the club also endorsed Sharon Brown who is running for the vacant Senate seat formerly occupied by Sen. Jane Orie.

"We look forward to communication with all the candidates running in the general election, especially the candidates yet to join the race in August, and will continue to serve as an active conduit for information and advocacy," Glickman says.


And here's a follow-up for naturalists looking for phenomena to study: In an eerie display of the mysteries of nature, different media organizations sometimes cover the same story simultaneously. We're not talking about the lemming-like behavior of, say, national media outlets chasing the daily political buzz of a presidential campaign here: These are stories that are off the beaten track, minding their own business and getting little attention, until suddenly two media outlets pounce on them at once.

Such was the case with our featured news story this week on synchronous fireflies -- luminous bugs who coordinate their summertime light display. It turns out that, at almost the very moment Bill O'Driscoll was tramping around the Allegheny National Forest chasing these little critters, a reporter from the Allegheny Front was doing much the same thing. The local environmental-affairs radio program offers its own take on the fireflies tomorrow at 7:30 AM on 90.5 FM. But if you're not the kind of organism that wakes up that early on a Saturday, you can find it online here.

Here's the part that blows my mind, though: Two media outlets simultaneously shed light on a story about fireflies who shed light simultaneously. Eerie. I'd almost suspect the hand of some sort of Intelligent Designer, if I didn't know that City Paper's editor, at least, is barely capable of coordinating his own socks. And as if to verify Darwin's emphasis on variation in nature, the stories each have a different focus. O'Driscoll's raises concerns about stewardship of the Allegheny National Forest itself, while the Front's piece addresses more purely biological concerns. One expert tells reporter Ann Murray that "The fireflies are a paradigm of this larger theme of nature organizing itself, which has been very difficult for scientists to understand. It's really the subject for the whole 21st century."

Perhaps more study of journalists in their natural habitat would yield new insights on the topic?

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