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Protestors plaster Chron with lies

by Ben
Protestors win promise of editorial meeting with SF Chronicle to discuss biased coverage of homeless people.
Protestors win promise of editorial meeting with SF Chronicle to discuss biased coverage of homeless people.

[San Francisco, July 28] - In response to escalating police sweeps and media vilification of homeless people, protesters plastered the front doors of the San Francisco Chronicle offices with copies of biased news coverage taken from the Chronicle\'s own pages and demanded an end to an editorial policy that is aiding and abetting the harassment and criminalization of homeless people.

The protest began at Powell and Market Streets at 6:00 PM on Saturday to demand that San Francisco\'s major news outlets stop inciting hate and begin to tell the truth about homelessness in the United States and Bay Area. The march of over 100 proceeded to the Chronicle offices at 5th and Mission where demonstrators chanted among many others, \"Chronicle Chronicle, we won\'t rest \'til you cover our protest.\"

After an hour of chanting and poster plastering, the Chronicle Sunday editor told police to inform protestors that they would arrange a meeting with Editor Phil Bronstein on Monday.

Organized by Media Alliance, Poor Magazine, Street Sheet and Street Spirit, this demonstration coincides with the annual conference of the North American Street Newspaper Association (NASNA).

\"When the mainstream media stereotype and demean homeless people, they incite public intolerance and give tacit approval to the scapegoating of an already persecuted group,\" said Terry Messman, editor of Street Spirit newspaper.

\"Running a major story on homeless issues that relies largely, if not exclusively, on the anti-homeless views of merchants, city officials and the police is not only unfair and distorted reporting, it censors the voices of those most affected,\" Messman added.

\"Currently, for example, the San Francisco Chronicle has several reporters and columnists who consistently give negative press to homeless people,\" he said. \"The truth deserves a full airing and a more balanced approach.\"

In addition to prejudicial depictions of the poorest of the poor, organizers accuse the news media of championing the criminalization of homeless people and ignoring newsworthy issues and events within the homeless community.

\"Almost every homeless organization in the Bay Area has had the experience of seeing undeniably significant, newsworthy events utterly blacked out by the mainstream media,\" said Chance Martin, editor of Street Sheet, a newspaper published by the Coalition on Homelessness. \"A new baseball park is given extensive front-page coverage for days on end, but the same newspapers virtually ignore it when many of San Francisco\'s leading clergy and members of the Board of Supervisors gather at City Hall to protest the staggering 1,767 deaths of homeless people in the City.\"

According to the editor of Poor magazine, Lisa Gray-Garcia, \"The newest trend in the mainstream corporate media - as witnessed in the One Hearst town of San Francisco, as well as the rest of the corporate national press - is to act as public relations campaigns for economic and racial cleansing in cities across America.\" Citing recent press abuses, Gray-Garcia noted: \"Examples of this are evident in the S.F. Chronicle, KRON TV, and the new S. F. Examiner - all of which acted as cheerleaders for Mayor Brown\'s bench removal and the Mid-Market B.I.D. (Business Improvement District).\"

Demanding an end to such unfair and inflammatory reporting, demonstrators are specifically calling upon the mainstream media to:

1. Eliminate prejudicial language, demeaning descriptions, bigoted stereotypes and other examples of hate language directed at homeless people.

2. Stop championing the criminalization of homeless people by slanting news and editorial coverage in a way that puts pressure on public officials to \"sweep\" or \"cleanse\" homeless people from certain areas with police repression.

3. Tell the truth about rising homelessness in the United States and the Bay Area and how that relates to widespread poverty and systemic economic injustice.

4. Stop promoting displacement of poor people by unthinkingly championing gentrification and redevelopment projects that benefit only the rich, while all too often decreasing affordable housing for the poor and fueling rising rental rates and evictions.

5. Practice fair reporting In all news stories on homelessness and welfare issues, by interviewing homeless people, welfare recipients, and homeless advocacy groups who might have an essential part of the truth to tell.

6. Actively seek op-ed contributions from homeless people, welfare recipients, and advocacy organizations.

7. Be much more responsive in giving news coverage to important social issues, legislative campaigns, protests and new policy solutions from the homeless community.

8. Develop a policy and create a process to monitor news stories and editorials for examples of prejudiced language directed against poor and homeless persons, including demeaning descriptions, unfair or one-sided attack articles, and inflammatory speech; media outlets should create an ombudsman position to analyze the fairness of such news coverage.

According to Ben Bagdikian, former Dean of the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and keynote speaker at the NASNA conference, in their current coverage of homelessness the mainstream media have become \"party to a cruel and unnecessary flaw in our society.\"

\"That 32 million of our population have their housing, food, and clothing \'index\' drop steadily for more than 30 years is worth only an occasional feature story about an individual or statistical fragments in back pages of our most influential news organizations,\" Bagdikian observed.

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Media Alliance ( is a 25-year-old training and resource center, dedicated to fostering a genuine diversity of media voices and perspectives, holding the media accountable for their impact on society, and protecting freedom of speech.

Poor Magazine ( is a non-profit community based
arts organization providing media access, arts and education to very low
and no income adults and children.

NASNA is an association of newspapers sold by homeless people, providing survival income and accurate portrayals of the homeless situation across the continent.

Street Sheet is published by the Coalition on Homelessness ( , an organization of homeless and formerly homeless people as well as representatives of over 50 service, shelter and housing providers, advocacy groups, and neighborhood and religious organizations.

Street Spirit (spirit [at] is a monthly advocacy journal published by the American Friends Service Committee, and features hard-hitting reporting on the issues of homelessness, economic justice, poverty, human rights and welfare issues. More than 100 homeless vendors sell Street Spirit widely on the streets of Oakland, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz. Vendors keep all proceeds from sales, making the paper a positive alternative to panhandling.

Andrea Buffa, Media Alliance, 415-546-6334 x 309

Lisa Gray-Garcia, Poor Magazine, 415-863-6306

Chance Martin/Paul Boden, Street Sheet/COH, 415-346-3740

Terry Messman, Street Spirit, 415-565-0201 x 25

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