Pitney was born in Tokyo and attended the University of California, Santa Barbara. Pitney worked as Deputy Research Director at the Center for American Progress, where he helped found, and was Managing Editor of, their blog, ThinkProgress. Pitney joined the Huffington Post in 2007 and served in a variety of capacities, including Politics Editor during the 2008 Presidential election, National Editor, DC Bureau Chief, Executive Editor, and Managing Editor of the Huffington Post Media Group.
Pitney came to prominence during the 2009 Iranian election protests, where he liveblogged the protest for the Huffington Post by aggregating social media posts from Iranians, including videos and tweets. According to Pintey, over 100,000 comments were left on the popular blog. As a result, Pitney was asked by the Obama administration to be prepared to pose a question from an Iranian at a June 23, 2009 press conference at the White House. In a departure from typical press conference protocol, Pitney was called on second and asked Obama under what conditions the United States would accept the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While Pitney did not know if he would be called on to ask a question, and President Obama did not know what question would be asked, a number of critics, including members of the White House press corps charged that the question was an example of improper collusion between the White House and a journalist. One of the most prominent critics was Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. Pitney and Milbank engaged in a heated and personal debate on the CNN program Reliable Sources about the question, and according to Pitney, Milbank whispered to Pitney during a commercial break "You're such a dick". This incident spawned the Twitter hashtag #Dickwhisperer.
Pitney left the Huffington Post in 2012 to travel the world and blog about his experience, with his wife Karina Newton, former new media director for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In 2013, Pitney returned to the Huffington Post as head of product.
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- Yahya R. Kamalipour (2010). Media, Power, and Politics in the Digital Age: The 2009 Presidential Election Uprising in Iran. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-4422-0417-1.
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- "Media Unfair to Sanford?; Coverage of Michael Jackson's Death". Reliable Sources. CNN. June 28, 2009.
- Pitney, Nico (28 June 2009). "Debating The Iran Question On CNN's Reliable Sources". Huffington Post. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- Garber, Megan (29 June 2009). "#Dickwhisperer: A History". Columbia Journalism Review.
- Vamburkar, Meenal (8 May 2012). "Nancy Pelosi Taps ThinkProgress Editor As Director Of New Media". Mediaite. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- Wemple, Eric (31 January 2013). "Nico Pitney returning to Huffington Post". Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2013.