Tag Archives: sfist

Ed Lee is No More the Mayor than Emperor Norton Was

Evidence of the claims I have been making that the Bay-Guardian, The Chron and The Bay Citizen are not only out of touch, but the worst sort of insider-journalists can be found in their ratification of the results of this year’s election over the reality: only a handful of people decided the political fate of the City.

By contrast, in the blogosphere, SF Appeal, The League of Pissed off Voters (via tweet), and SFist all noted the pathetic voter turnout in the election within minutes of polls closing, which is the story of the election of 2011 – a handful of very wealthy people decided this.

Chris Roberts at SFAppeal notes: “In other words, 112,275 voters — or less than 25 percent of the electorate — decided who became mayor of San Francisco. And of them, 68,721 — or about 14 percent of the electorate, and about eight percent of the citizenry — actually voted for Mayor Ed Lee.”

The absence of coverage of this single most important issue of the election by The Chronicle, The SF Bay Guardian and the newly minted Bay Citizen until now, suddenly this week – when they use it to attack Ranked Choice or Instant Runoff Voting – are exactly what I have been talking about this year.

The reporters and editors of these papers are participating in a cliquish civic theater instead of reporting on the needs, thoughts and desires of residents of our City.

They are engaged in stroking a few candidates and ridiculing anyone who thinks outside the box. They lack courage, conviction and objectivity and cover elections so they can be near the winners and get invited to the party.

The Chron and Bay Citizen and SFBG not only avoided discussing the absurdly low numbers of voters who decided matters until this week, they chose to make their election coverage about defining these very few voters as an aggregate image of the “voters of San Francisco” and to attribute this ridiculously small number of citizens in our town with the general opinion of San Franciscans.

In the Bay Guardian, the political novice Steven T. Jones spent a long column discussing the makeup of “SF voters” – with no mention of the fact that they were not even a third of those eligible to vote! He dares to title the piece San Francisco’s Political Spectrum: a primer – What balls!

The Bay Citizen, however, is the worst and with the furthest reach. The Bay Citizen made an arrangement whereby select pieces appear in print in the New York Times’ Bay Area editions.

So readers of the NYT here in the Bay are informed by a blog started less than a year ago with $5million from the Hellmans (hover over the link to the bay citizen at right).

And the Hellman family’s editors chose to publish a piece by two of their writers that claim that this election “Signals Shift to the Right” in San Francisco! With no mention of the lowest turnout ever!

Again, what balls! Is this so New Yorkers living here can feel that Manhattanization is happening on schedule?! Is that what this is about? Argh. You are killing our City!

These aren’t journalists, they’re mediators.

This was a horrible election because wealthy vested interests manipulated millions of dollars to ensure a handful of viable choices would appear to wrestle for power, while Ed Lee was basically ratified in a confirmation election.

The Chron and The Bay Citizen and The SF Bay Guardian show their true colors even as the Occupy Movement tells the real story of the disenfranchised.

Blame the media – do it. We’d never have such pathetic candidates if instead of gravy-training reporters at the Chron, SFBG and Bay Citizen, we had real reporters and caring journalists.

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Media and the Mayoral Election in SF

When you hover over any of the links in the blogroll to the right, you will notice a critique or comment concerning where the link leads. Spend some time lingering. Also, do bookmark this page and use it as a node to these news sources.

Note that the SF blogs were all launched within the past decade, except Indybay, which, though first and most directly for the poor and disenfranchised, remains marginalized by the mainstream press.

In addition to blogs of neighborhood or city-wide interest, there are also dozens of insider blogs written by people with access to the politicos of our town that pols and wonks presumably sit around reading. They are filled with rhetoric about what’s best for our City.

Like The Usual Suspects, which began as a fax sent to the policy types in 1995, or, since May of 2007, Sweet Melissa ,who sides with those who seek to rebrand IRV, Instant Runoff Voting, with the foul-sounding name Ranked Choice Voting, and drive it away.

I commented on Melissa’s site that the loudest opponents of IRV are:

1. people who think the voters are too stupid to know how to use it and

2. those whose interest it threatens, namely Big Parties, Monied Candidates and

3. those who use the traditional way of doing things: buying the election.

The most recent of the blogs is of course the LOUDEST right now, The Bay Citizen, which describes itself like this:

“Concerned about the negative impact of [the decline of journalism] on the community, in early 2009 local philanthropist Warren Hellman convened an advisory committee to examine the issue and offer possible solutions. In January 2010, after many months of research and planning, and with a generous $5 million contribution from the Hellman Family Foundation, The Bay Citizen (first known as the Bay Area News Project) was founded. …

“On May 26, 2010, The Bay Citizen launched its online content on http://www.baycitizen.org. On June 4, 2010, The Bay Citizen’s newsroom began producing the articles featured in the two-page Bay Area Report in The New York Times’ print editions, which are delivered to over 65,000 Bay Area New York Times subscribers on Fridays and Sundays. Over time, The Bay Citizen also plans to distribute news through podcasts, radio, and potentially TV.”

In recent days I have perused the content and we have all witnessed increasing ad presence around the Bay for the blog – which requests you join on a splash page when you visit now, saying they need 500 more “Bay Citizens” to sign up. It’s not as easy to pay top-notch reporters and editors in the era of user-generated content as the Hellmans thought.

I noticed they did hire the experienced and competent Aaron Glantz, the radio reporter for KPFA and Free Speech Radio News, an East Bay journalist and author who also filed stories for me when I was a news director – he did the first and best coverage of Muqtada Al-Sadr in Iraq during the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003, btw.

Some of the work is pretty good and the reach into civic space is decent, growing. But many of the positions taken via their headlines and tweets are dangerously “un-journalistic” and there is some question about their editorial choices at a time when we need to address waste and budget deficits. They are creating a voice for themselves, yes – but what exactly does it have to do with us? regular San Franciscans …

Really though, the media environment in SF has achieved pluralized saturation.

We don’t need more communication, we need better communication.

In fact, traditional modes of journalism relied on critique and competitiveness to create a whole picture of our society – the two-paper town – but in the late 1990’s as the Net and electronic media became more ubiquitous, this all began to fall apart.

Career politicians and the big parties have preyed upon the critical void created by the absence of competitive views and the pluralization of media. Now, by purchasing television, internet and radio time in great volume just weeks before the election, mainstream candidates backed by immense special interests cement their victory in elections and define what our society  should be like.

The Guardian and the Chron have fallen right in line, in order to be perceived of as “legitimate” by those in power, and all of it seems to have more to do with selling something and less to do with the everyday struggles of San Franciscans.

I encourage readers to consider the views of all these blogs and papers with a critical eye – particularly when they are blasé, snarky, cliquish, in-jokey or authoritative about what it means to be a San Franciscan, a progressive, or an informed voter. If we show these complacent journalists and candidates that we are much smarter and more critical than they think, we stand a chance of having coverage that looks more like our city, and more importantly they might fear our turnout more and respond to our needs.

This election year, the Bay Citizen, SF Appeal and other bloggers will seek to become an electronic platform that will stand aside the Guardian and Chron to cover the race. I hope it’s the beginning of competitive journalism again. Let us read together and see. A good example of the work I am talking about is by another of the new blogs, SF Appeal, who have pursued alleged lobbying violations by Alex Tourk, rather vigorously. Check it.

[and this one, about Mesherle’s impending release, which is well written and significant because many in the mainstream press are either avoiding the topic or not addressing the emotions it brings up. I have been reading SF Appeal a lot more recently as I campaign for Mayor, it is succeeding at some level – keep up the good work.

It is important to note in this case that a jury of 12 found Mehserle guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter AND the handgun charge. The handgun charge was a serious element here which could have led to policy changes such as the removal of lethal weapons like guns from BART cops. (they have Tasers and nightsticks and so on).

Instead it was thrown out unilaterally by the judge – which seems illegal to many. It’s too expensive for the family to pursue that on appeal, but it certainly ought to be the civic sector’s responsibility to make such a charge stick and to pursue such weird decision-making.

I, for one, believe we should disarm BART police. Let local PDs be called when a gun is necessary, make it a felony to carry a gun on BART and put excessive cameras in the system. We need to de-escalate the violence and the weaponry on our streets.]

BTW, the largest number of hits to this site yet was May 10th …

welcome to new followers and thank you for considering Karthik Rajan for Mayor of San Francisco in 2011.

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informative SF sites added to blogroll

Decided to expand the blogroll to include last year’s story about City employees’ salaries and the County’s voter turnout statistics – we really need to have more than 300,000 vote this year, folks.

And I added the Bicycle Coalition’s site – We Welcome the Patronage of Cyclists!

and the SF originals Mother Jones and Craigslist.

Many San Franciscan friends remember me as a guy who used to keep a 6×4″ sketchbook in my back pocket, who traveled around chronicling the town like mad. I wrote a novel in SF between 1995-1997 called Mood, which was constructed from notes taken in the City then. It was pre-blogging blogging, like we all used to do before the Internetting.

I made notes about politics and culture and art, bars, restaurants, cafe’s and events [the birth of the first Thursday Art Walk and the erecting of the SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Gardens, Kill Your Television and other SRL events, Clarion Alley Mural Project’s birth and other murals, The Mission School and DJ scenes, Mayors Riordan and Brown and the Board in those days]

Today of course blogging has taken the place of street journalism, so I’ve also added some of the blogs that have emerged in recent years:

Indybay was launched on my birthday in 2000

SFist started in 2004

SF Appeal in 2009

and the Bay Citizen in 2010.

I’ve also added

The Tender … for your daily cut of the Loin,

and several of my favorite places on the net for news and official information

… and the Bay-Guardian.

I just couldn’t be bring myself to include The Comical.

The beauty of the net is that it helps us get on the same page – don’t you think?

Karthik

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