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

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Wed, 25 Jul 2001 19:30:27 -0700

* * * * * * * * * * * *  P R E S S   R E L E A S E   * * * * * * * * * * * *

For Immediate Release:
July 25, 2001

Andrea Buffa, Media Alliance, 415-546-6334 x 309
Chance Martin or Paul Boden, STREET SHEET/COH, 415-346-3740
Lisa Gray-Garcia, Poor Magazine, 415-863-6306
Terry Messman, Street Spirit, 415-565-0201 x 25


** Street Newspaper Editors From Throughout North America Demand an End to
Inflammatory, Unfair and Biased Reporting that "Incites Hate Against
Homeless People." **

[San Francisco, July 28] - In response to escalating police sweeps and media
vilification of homeless people, protesters will rally 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.  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"

"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

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

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.


Media Alliance (www.media-alliance.org) 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.

NASNA (http://www.speakeasy.org/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
(www.sf-homeless-coalition.org). 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.

"POOR Magazine" (www.poornewsnetwork.org) is a non-profit community based
arts organization providing media access, arts and education to very low and
no income adults and children.

"Street Spirit" (spirit@afsc.org) 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.

A Publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
468 Turk Street, San Francisco, CA  94102
415 / 346.3740-voice  415 / 775.5639-fax