[Hpn] STREETWISE AND MANAGEMENT FOOLISH -- Chicago Tribune

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Wed, 14 Feb 2001 10:47:08 -0700


"Board members, when they meet Monday night, should consider bringing in an
outside mediator trusted by everyone to help straighten out the mess. An
independent auditor also might help."

http://chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/article/0,2669,SAV-0102100087,FF.html

STREETWISE AND MANAGEMENT FOOLISH

February 10, 2001  

Greg Pritchett doesn't know much about all the petty internal squabbles that
have thrown Chicago's StreetWise newspaper into turmoil. He doesn't
particularly care how they get resolved--as long as they do soon and he has
a new issue to hawk on Monday.

Hear! Hear!

"If we don't have a paper, there's going to be a lot of people that will go
hungry," said Pritchett, who sells about 50 papers a day and also works as a
vendor representative for the newspaper sold by poor and homeless people on
the city's street corners.

The majority of the paper's shoestring editorial staff this week wrote a
four-page letter to the StreetWise board detailing a host of grievances and
asking that Executive Director Anthony Oliver be ousted.

Turnover is high, they complained. Morale is low. Employees feel overworked
and understaffed. The workplace is too cold.

The next day, three were ordered home upon showing up for work. They ended
up returning Thursday to help get the next issue out on time, but their job
status remains uncertain.

It is said that the smallest things inspire the biggest battles. Problem is,
when those battles erupt at ventures such as StreetWise--small non-profits
that already operate in the far margins of finances and organizational
strength--they bear greater risk of driving the entire enterprise into the
ground.

That would be a shame, because StreetWise has provided a route back to
stability for hundreds of individuals who are poor or homeless. Its vendors
have become an integral part of the city's cultural landscape. The tabloid
also has developed into one of the country's highest-quality street papers,
providing a fresh take on poverty issues.

Board members, when they meet Monday night, should consider bringing in an
outside mediator trusted by everyone to help straighten out the mess. An
independent auditor also might help.

Everyone involved in this spat should remember one thing: Ego, protocol and
pettiness have to take a back seat to the importance of allowing Greg
Pritchett and his 270 fellow vendors to keep faith with their regulars.

"If my customers don't see me, they say, `Greg, you all right?'" he said.
"It used to be they bought StreetWise because they felt sorry for the
vendors, but now they like the paper, and we look at each other as
businessmen and women."


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