Saturday, March 19, 2005

Cheap shot journalism

I've put the knock on the SF Bay Guardian for years about their coverage---or lack thereof---of the city's homelessness problem. In spite of both the human tragedy involved and the political significance of the issue, you can go for months without seeing anything about homelessness in the Guardian. But of late they've changed their approach: they only write about homelessness when they think they can slam Mayor Newsom on the issue. Rachel Brahinsky is now the Guardian's designated hit-person, and her latest is in the current issue ("Where Have All the Homeless Gone?," SF Bay Guardian, March 16, 2005). Brahinsky wonders what happened to the 1000 on General Assistance who have disappeared since Care Not Cash became operational last year:

The lack of data is convenient for Newsom. Without it, he can simply focus his public relations message on the positive news of those he has helped. But without knowing what's happened to the rest, it's impossible to honestly assess the impact of his programs.

The implication is that of course Newsom doesn't really care about the missing 1000. But how much does the Guardian care, since they essentially ignore the issue, except when they think it's time for a slam at Mayor Newsom?

Actually, Rachel Gordon scooped the Guardian on the story last Dec. 31 in the SF Chronicle, when she reported that the city is planning to pay for a study to find out what happened to the 1000 MIA welfare recipients. But the Guardian has so much contempt for its mainstream competitors it probably didn't see the item in Gordon's City Hall Beat column. Is the city following through on the plan? Who's going to do the study? When will it be done? These are the kind of questions the Guardian should be asking, instead of this week's uninformed cheap-shot at the mayor.

And here's a heretical thought the Guardian might consider: the 1000 missing welfare recipients may simply have been scammers who disappeared when they realized that their hustle was no longer viable as Care Not Cash kicked in.

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