Chronicle Promotes False Attack on Oakland Mayor Quan

by Randy Shaw on September 29, 2011

It’s not just in covering progressive Asian-Americans in San Francisco that the San Francisco Chronicle gets its facts wrong; it has repeatedly called progressive Oakland Mayor Jean Quan a “Queen of Blight” despite city officials denying that Quan’s shrubs in front of her home constitute blight. How does the Chronicle justify such false labeling, which headlined sfgate.com site over a week period? The same way it supported its attacks on San Francisco’s Chinatown Community Development Center: by relying on the opinion of a single biased, non-expert and non-credible person, and allowing this opinion – rather than actual facts – to frame its story. Chronicle editors are identifying Quan as the Queen of Blight because that’s how a single resident described her at a City Council meeting. Although the story clearly refutes this claim, the Chronicle turned this single comment into a major story that sfgate.com continues to promote through a link attacking Quan.

It’s not news that San Francisco Chronicle editors give unfair coverage to progressives. And progressive Asian-Americans are even more unfairly targeted, on both sides of the Bay.

Last week, the Chronicle relied on Quentin Kopp of all people for a story claiming that CCDC needs to be investigated. Long the leading anti-tenant, anti-nonprofit housing voice on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Kopp was known as the Town Grouch for a reason; using Kopp to frame a story about CCDC is like having Pat Robertson as the leading source for a story on gay marriage.

I was not going to write about the Chronicle’s outrageously false attack on Mayor Quan until I saw that the link “Queen of Blight” was on the top of sfgate.com on September 28, five days after the initial story appeared. This showed that the Chronicle editors have a clear anti-Quan agenda, and hope to help undermine her by identifying her with a nasty epithet.

Quan’s Home in Compliance

The problem, as is usually the case with the Chronicle, is that the editor’s assigned a story that lacked factual support. This is revealed toward the very end of the article (!) when Deputy Chief James Williams of the Oakland Fire Department is quoted saying that “Quan’s home has been in compliance during each annual inspection by firefighters.”

Hold on a second. I thought Quan was the queen of blight. Now we are told that her home has been in consistent compliance?

Does the Chronicle have a new policy of basing stories on what people say at public hearings regardless of the factual basis? I know that newspapers are trying to keep up with the Internet, but doesn’t the print media claim to avoid printing those vicious on-line rumors?

Here’s another late quote undermining the story’s entire thrust: “A neighbor, Lillian Stewart, said, ‘They’re good neighbors. We’ve never had any problems with them. They’re nice people.’” So we have neighbors who only have good things to say about Quan v. a person who lives nowhere near them who says they are creating blight – and the Chronicle bought the view of the stranger?

The Chronicle has never liked Jean Quan, and some editor saw a great chance to negatively brand her by allowing a single hostile public comment to frame an entire story. The false story predictably produced anti-Quan comments from sfgate’s notoriously right wing, hate-speech fomenting comment line, and the Chronicle’s continuing to highlight the “Queen of Blight” label simply promotes false information.

Jean Quan and CCDC Director Gordon Chin worked together as young activists in Oakland in the 1960’s. Forty years later, they remain as committed to their struggle as the Hearst Corporation is to its.

Randy Shaw discusses strategies for combating unfair media coverage in The Activist’s Handbook.

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