[Hpn] Urgent Action: Protest Media Attacks on Homeless, 7/28

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Sat, 21 Jul 2001 13:28:27 -0700

!!!!!!!** EMBARGOED UNTIL FRIDAY, 7/27/01 **!!!!!!!


Saturday, July 28, 6 PM
Powell & Market Streets, San Francisco (@ cable car turnaround)

Take direct action to demand that San Francisco's media outlets stop
inciting hate against homeless and poor people and tell the truth about
rising homelessness in the United States and Bay Area.

>From July 26 - 29, hundreds of representatives from street newspapers
throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico will be in San Francisco to
attend the 2001 North American Street Newspaper Association Conference. On
the final night of the conference, they invite you to take to the streets
with them to demand an end to corporate media lies and stereotyping of poor
and homeless people. Following are our demands:

Street Newspaper Movement Demands of the Mainstream Media:

1. Eliminate all prejudicial language, demeaning descriptions, bigoted
stereotypes and other examples of hate language directed at homeless people.
Prejudicial descriptions of the poorest of the poor have no place in the
major media and are as unacceptable as prejudice directed against any other
minority, race, gender or sexual orientation. When the mainstream media
singles out homeless people as the one minority it is still "socially
acceptable" to stereotype and demean in print, it is inciting public
intolerance and giving tacit approval to the scapegoating of a persecuted

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. In this day and age, newspapers would not dare to champion the
removal from public areas or the enforced segregation of any other group of
"undesirables." It is unconscionable for the mainstream media to advocate,
directly or indirectly, that homeless people be criminalized for performing
acts that are essential to their daily survival.

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. Ben Bagdikian, former Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism
at UC Berkeley, recently wrote that "our mainstream papers and broadcasters
(are) a party to a cruel and unnecessary flaw in our society"-- the flaw of
growing homelessness. Bagdikian wrote: "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

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. A newspaper should not act in knee-jerk fashion
like a cheerleader for the Chamber of Commerce.

5. In all news stories on homelessness and welfare issues, it is essential
to practice fair reporting by interviewing homeless people, welfare
recipients, and homeless advocacy groups who may have an essential part of
the truth to tell. Running a major story on homeless issues that relies
largely 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.

6. Actively seek op-editorials written by homeless people, welfare
recipients, and advocacy organizations with years or decades of experience
to bring to bear on the issues of homelessness, affordable housing, welfare
cutbacks, mental health issues, et al. Currently, the San Francisco
Chronicle has several reporters and columnists who consistently give
negative press to homeless people. The truth deserve a full airing and a
more balanced approach. Giving editorial space for homeless people and their
advocates to respond to the many, almost daily attacks on their character
and dignity seems to be the path of fairness, and one that newspapers can
very easily grant in the name of balanced coverage.

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

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 ("hate speech") that can incite
hatred towards an unpopular social group. Media outlets should create a
"watchdog" position to analyze the fairness of news coverage towards poor
and homeless persons, and to correct examples of intolerant and unfair

For more information about the NASNA conference, call the Coalition on
Homelessness at (415) 346-3740.

Media Alliance is a training and resource center for media workers,
actvists and community organizations.

Media Alliance
814 Mission St. #205
San Francisco  CA  94103


The Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco (COH) was organized in 1987 to
garner the active participation of poor people on both the design and
critique of public policy and non-profit services that result in permanent
solutions to poverty. It is a unique organization in that the driving force
is low-income and homeless people, working in every aspect of the
organization, from the volunteers to the staff and leadership body.

Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
468 Turk Street, San Francisco, CA  94102
415/346.3740-voice  415/7755639-fax