The Shady Musings of CW Nevius

root - Posted on 24 March 2008

PNN investigates the career of SF Chronicle writer CW Nevius.

by Lola Bean/PNN

The day was shady, but not as shady as the San Francisco Chronicle.

It was noon and I was standing with my folks from POOR Magazine outside the Chronicle Building on Fifth and Mission. We were there with a crowd of allies and fellow community members that were disgusted by the way CW Nevius was talking about folks that fall on hard times in one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in.

I happen to be one of those people. I am facing homelessness at the end of September of this year. It’s not the first time. I was brought up in a struggling and abusive working class family. My mother kicked out of my home as a teenager, and years of struggling and often failing to keep a roof over my head soon followed.

This time, though, I have a BA and the student loan payments to prove it. I’ve learned to cope well with my migraines and PTSD. I have years of job experience the countless number of resumes I’ve distributed, and I’ve even owned my own business. Still, I have found myself without money, without a job, and soon without a roof.

It’s no secret that thinly veiled behind the “progressive” image that city media producers like the Chronicle have created, San Francisco remains to be divided by class in a very real way. In San Francisco, if you don’t have a roof you are considered a drug addict and a criminal at worse and a dirty neighborhood nuisance at best. Just ask the Chronicle. Better yet, ask self-appointed expert on homelessness, CW Nevius.

In recent articles CW Nevius has thrown away any remaining thread of journalistic integrity and embarked on a slam campaign against poor folks and folks struggling to make ends meet in one of the most expensive cities in the world. The hate speech he uses is backed by his own personal opinion and marketed to the public through the Chronicle as some sort of newsworthy truth.

Take for example, Nevius’s account of the reason’s one finds “homeless encampments” in Golden Gate Park. In the Aug. 26, 2007 article “Recycling center near Golden Gate Park may add to illegal activity” Nevius writes:

The obvious reasons are that the park is large and hard to patrol, it is adjacent to panhandler- and needle exchange-friendly Haight Street, and San Francisco's temperate climate keeps camping out from becoming too uncomfortable.


So if you missed that, let me re-cap.

The question is: Why are there homeless encampments in San Francisco?

Nevius’s answer: People camp in Golden Gate Park because of 1) a lack of police, 2) it’s close to Haight Street, and 3) nice weather.

I wonder what research Nevius did to make these claims. How did this make it past the fact-checkers? I guess when it comes to poor folks, the Chronicle can say whatever they want. It’s not like we have the money to sue them, right?

Outside the Chronicle building, a large crowd has formed. There are signs reading “Would you call Jesus a homeless junkie?” and “Stop the Hate Speech about Poor People” and “Where’s the Love?”

Tiny, co founder of POOR Magazine, takes the mic and clearly states why we are all together standing in the shadows of the Chronicle building. “What we are talking about today is responsible journalism.” Gloves off and camouflage, Tiny called out the Chronicle for their blatant use of hate speech against poor people and demanded that they retract their statements.

The Chronicle and CW Nevius has compared poor folks to wild animals, made us out to be criminals and dangerous drug addicts, and even thrown verbal arrows at us for really “cleaning up the city” by recycling to try to feed ourselves and our families.

For example, in his article “Recycling center near Golden Gate Park may add to illegal activity,” Nevius describes recyclers like keeping the landfills clean is some kind of devious thing that only lowlifes and opportunistic people do.

Many of us have had to struggle to find whatever activities we can do in order to secure the most basic things, like food and clothing. Many have had to do this work to provide not only for themselves, but for their children. This is how Nevius describes the recycling center by Golden Gate Park:

"It's a cash register for them," says a nearby neighbor, who asked not to be identified. "It is accommodating their lifestyle."

I’m not sure what part of San Francisco Nevius lives in, or if he lives in San Francisco at all, but to think that this meager amount of money can support any kind of LIFE-style is crazy. To suggest that to “easily score $5” by recycling is somehow taking advantage of the system is – well, totally ridiculous. To ridicule someone that is has to walk over two hours carrying recycling bags to make under $30 in print is just evidence of Nevius and the Chronicle’s hatred for poor people.

Not all of us are as fortunate as he is.

Jazzy, a brilliant woman and poverty scholar, points out that the development of and housing the rich is more of a priority in San Francisco that providing housing for the rest of us. She declares, “We’re talking about condos. We’re not talking about adequate affordable housing.”

In San Francisco, minimum wage is $9.14 and hour. At 40 hours per week, that works out to approximately $1,260.00 per month – before taxes. If you go on Craigslist, you’d be lucky to find a studio apartment for under $900 per month. I was able to maintain my apartment through a combination of roommates, work, and student loans. Unfortunately, my roommate moved out, the program at my school collapsed, and I have not been unable to find another job. I can only imagine what this experience would be like for a single mother supporting a family and struggling to feed multiple mouths. The “cash register” CW refers to can’t come close to supporting the most basic “life”style.

What kind of life can you buy with a few dollars a day in San Francisco? Why is Nevius and the Chronicle invested in using his authority as a journalist to make sure San Franciscans look at people experiencing houselessness as drug addicts, drunks, and public nuisances?

Go to the sfgate homepage and search CW Nevius. See if you can figure out what his deal is. Check out articles like “Golden Gate Park Sweep: Can City Make it Stick? – March of the Junkies,” “HERE’S THE REAL PROBLEM IN GOLDEN GATE PARK Newsom's Failure: Despite his vow to clean up the city's gem, homeless encampments and used syringes litter the area” and “Tenderloin mourns an original Legless panhandler known as 'Skateboard,' killed by mail truck, lived life on the edge.”

You’ll find quotes like:

“Silverman and other Cole Street residents have become familiar with ‘The March of the Junkies.’ In the early afternoon they trudge up the street to the corner, then turn and hike back down to the Panhandle portion of Golden Gate Park. Somewhere along the line, needles and condoms can be tossed in the bushes, and the homeless people turn their gardens into rest rooms.”
- From “Golden Gate Park Sweep: Can City Make it Stick? – March of the Junkies”

“But homelessness in the park is such a persistent, insidious problem.…Although they cleared out campers in some spots, others moved in. Or maybe they never left.”
- From “On San Francisco - Golden gate park mess - a one-month checkup - Major homeless campsites cleared, but some have just shifted position”

“But this isn't a homeless issue. This is about a jewel of a public park, more than 1,000 acres of some of the most beautiful terrain in any city anywhere. This isn't about social welfare policy. The foliage must be cleaned along the road sides. The camps have to be controlled week after week after week.”
Newsom's Failure: Despite his vow to clean up the city's gem, homeless encampments and used syringes litter the area
But this isn't a homeless issue.”

“So if you are looking to muster a lot of sympathy, this is an uphill battle. Skateboard was a reckless, homeless drinker who, after any number of close calls, finally got run over. Frankly, he was probably living on borrowed time. So it goes.

We walk past street characters such as Skateboard every day in San Francisco. The city's kind of famous for them. Sometimes they are chattering to unseen companions. And sometimes, like Skateboard, they panhandle areas with lots of pedestrians such as AT&T Park or the hotels.

Of course, we all know the drill in dealing with street people -- eyes straight ahead, keep walking and ignore them if they try to talk to you.”
- from Tenderloin mourns an original
Legless panhandler known as 'Skateboard,' killed by mail truck, lived life on the edge

Seriously, why would a journalist go out of his way to attend the memorial of a man like Skateboard just to write a slam article about him? Why would the Chronicle publish this kind of story and try to pass it off as news?

Brother Y, a dreadlocked skolar with a strong warm voice and eyes strong with certainty asks why people without the comfort of a stable home are treated so poorly in a city that’s supposed to be about love and liberal politics. His answer, “Cuz we live in a classist society.”

And we live in a classist San Francisco. And so we’ve got a classist newspaper like the Chronicle that employs classist journalists like CW Nevius.

Outside the Chronicle building, the crowd listens to Tiny as she wraps up the event. She again calls out the Chronicle for using hate speech against poor people and demands a retraction of their libelous statements against poor people. She cries, “We just want you to tell the truth! We demand responsible journalism as of today!”

Please write or call CW Nevius and the Chronicle and demand that they stop using hate speech against poor people.


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