[Hpn] AN OPEN LETTER TO THE STREETWISE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Mon, 12 Feb 2001 12:53:59 -0700


2/12/00

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE STREETWISE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Dear StreetWise Board members,

By the time many of you have read this message, StreetWise will have
undergone yet another in its long history of personnel changes. Iıve been
periodically aware of the many personnel issues at StreetWise both before
and during my brief tenure as a member of the North American Street
Newspaper Associationıs (NASNA) Executive Committee.

Anthony Oliver has distinguished himself as the common denominator in all of
these personnel crises. Iıd like to be able to assume that his particular
fact would inform your decision on Monday, but I find myself questioning
whether Oliver will emerge yet again from beneath a storm of controversy.
Or, if Oliver is replaced, how much longer it will be until the next storm.
This is because personnel or management changes simply arenıt going to
address the systemic problems at StreetWise.

The problem at StreetWise is far more fundamental. The current abuse and
exploitation of the editorial staff is merely a further expression of the
pattern of abuse and exploitation StreetWise vendors have endured under
Oliverıs direction, and this Board of Directorsı supervision. The kind
systemic change that would correct these ongoing problems would require a
fundamental change in both the purview and composition of StreetWiseıs Board
of Directors.

StreetWise stands out among NASNA member papers for its enthusiastic embrace
of corporate values, and this is reflected by its Board of Directorsı
membership. Inclusion of politicians and corporate officers on a Board of
Directors can be desirable for fundraising purposes, but StreetWiseıs 1997
IRS form 990 (the most current one available online) shows an expenditure of
over $30,000.00 in professional fundraising fees. Itıs pretty obvious the
role of these Board members isnıt as rainmakers.

StreetWise also stands out among NASNA member publication for its utter lack
of an articulated commitment to the issues of poverty and social justice.
Sadly, this has been evident not only in the current revelations in the
mainstream press of ongoing abusive management practices with vendors and
staff, but also by a shift in editorial content. StreetWise has evolved into
a purely profit-making enterprise, and itıs editorial content is driven by
revenues from advertising sales.

Ironically, while StreetWise enjoys what is undoubtedly the largest budget
of any U.S. street newspaper (over $900,000.00 reported in 1997) it also
charges what is the highest rate among street newspapers to its vendors (35
cents on the dollar). Charging vendors 35% of cover price is perhaps
understandable for a financially strapped grassroots publication, but in the
case of an organization with StreetWiseıs resources this practice is
unconscionable. And there are further allegations of funds raised by former
staff members for skills training and workshops for vendors that have been
misappropriated for other purposes.

Oddly enough, when I pointed my browser at StreetWiseıs website
(http://www.street-wise.org/) in hopes of finding more current information
than what I could glean from 1997ıs form 990, I found that you are currently
renting your domain to a manufacturer of after-market computer accessories.
This is hardly surprising, and it seems to follow the practice of
corporations everywhere when they are exposed in the mainstream press for
screwing people over: draw back into the corporate shell, like a turtle, and
wait for it all to blow over. After weathering some criticism, the corporate
entity goes back to doing the same thing.

A couple of months ago, I was asked by a reporter from the Wall Street
Journal for my reaction to rumors that StreetWise was going to drop all
coverage of low-income and social justice issues for an entertainment focus.
My comment went something along the lines that it would probably be a relief
not to have to justify a social justice editorial focus with full-page ads
for Shell Oil, but where would that leave the vendors?

Iım still asking that question.

Sincerely,

chance martin, editor
STREET SHEET
A Publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco


-- 
chance martin, editor
STREET SHEET
A Publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
468 Turk Street, San Francisco, CA  94102
415 / 346.3740-voice € 415 / 775.5639-fax
streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
http://www.sf-homeless-coalition.org