Corporate Media Lies

root - Posted on 31 May 2004

Houseless people speak back to the lies reported in The SF Chroncles' Homeless Series

by Tiny/Poverty Scholar and co-editor POOR Magazine/PNN

"So what he took their pictures- they were in the public domain", a tall glassy eyed chronicle photographer, towering above me was spitting out defenses of the stereotypical photographs used for a a recent SF chronicle series on homelessness. As he spoke a large black camera with a telephoto lens dangled at his side, "they don't own the sidewalk", through gritted teeth, posing as a grin he defended the photographers lack of ethics in the series. As he spoke my mind traveled back to the cover of Sunday's SF Chronicle. The color; grainy black and white ala 1930's dustbowl. In the frame- two women shot from above the photographers gaze looking down which caused their size to appear almost elfin. Their hair a mass of tousled brillo, their surroundings; complete disarray, cardboard signs revealing their past or present vocation of panhandler. The headline below; Homeless Island

For the first five days of December The SF chronicle ran what they call a comprehensive story on homelessness in San Francisco. As a formerly homeless SF resident, I cringed with sadness with the unfolding of each days segment. As a poverty journalist who works to shatter the myths associated with homelessness and poverty, I was furious.

The Chronicle and Newsom is sleeping together Clyde from Shelter Outreach Project(SHOUT) of The Coalition on Homelessness was speaking into a mike at a rally held outside the Chronicle building on Mission street on day four of the series, they report in the chronicle that noone gets stabbed in the shelter well that's a lie my personal experience is I had a friend that was stabbed in a shelter right next to me.."

Several currently houseless folks like Clyde spoke at the rally about the lies and myths about homelessness that were promoted by the series , "The chronicle reports that there were plenty of beds and no turnaways I have gone in there and I can't get the beds cause you have to go to a drop in center to register first which is several miles away-and then they have folks doing this finger imaging thing, that's what they do to people in a penitentiary"

"There were some good things in the series but most of it was based on lies," LS Wilson from the Coalition on homelessness was addressing the protest, "for instance, they kept talking about 169 homeless people who had died, there is no documentation to back up that figure, and whether these people were panhandlers or not, how they died, there was no actual homeless death report done since 1999 , and yet the chronicle keeps using that figure", as LS continued I was fuming, if it was a story about housed people the Chronicle would have had to do more extensive fact checking . LS went on to give the actual statistics associated with homelessness in San Francisco including the fact that the SF Chronicle said there was $200,000.000 spent on homeless services last year even though the County Controller reported that San Francisco only spent $97 million in direct services and $5,000.000 in administration. They also reported that there is no plan for homelessness ( i.e. except the racist, classist Care Not Cash) but there is a plan; its called Continuum of Care which was written by homeless folks and homeless advocates and includes real solutions, but this plan has been continually hijacked by opportunistic politicians looking for a clean way to get votes on the backs of homeless people.

"Disabled women are harassed in the shelter system," Michelle McMillan, a currently houseless woman addressed the crowd, "The chronicle series promoted the stereotypes of the lazy homeless person that is just not true, I have been working for 20 years in the same job, I do not drink, smoke or do drugs and if anything shelter staff are the abusive people in this system. I did not come to San Francisco to get a GA check my family has been in San Francisco for seven generations, I work and I am in school, Care Not Cash is a lie and will hurt people not help them"

After several more people spoke I became aware of the tall man standing near the entrance of the Chronicle focusing and re-focusing his large lens in our direction.
Eventually he tried to take pictures of homeless people who were on the fringes of the protest, they got angry and accused him of not asking first before he took their pictures, a basic expectation from any photographer

As was reported by Steve Chester from The Coalition on Homelessness at the protest, the people depicted in Homeless Island "bleeds it leads" shock pics splattered across the front cover of last Sundays paper, did not give their permission to have those pictures taken and this man's answer to that charge was "so what, it was on a public sidewalk, that's in the public domain." The frightening part of his assertion was he was right and that meant that inherently because houseless folks had no roof or inside space ie protection and because by design their home was in the public domain they were in fact, unprotected from the "gaze" from the stereotypes, from the corporate media lies.


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