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A Wild Media Experiment To Fix San Francisco’s Homeless Crisis

Every newspaper, magazine, TV and radio station will provide a flood of coverage for one day

Credit: tbo.com

Tech, in all its iterations and corollaries, tends to drown out most conversation about the current state of San Francisco. Are young tech workers destroying the city’s cultural and demographic core? Is it a bubble? What’s up with those Google buses? A slice of toast costs how much now?


But virtually all of San Francisco’s media outlets -- newspaper, magazine, TV, radio, blog -- want you to focus on something else, at least for a day. San Francisco is plagued with an epic and persistent homeless problem, and it’s time to start talking about it. For one day, on June 29, media competitors are forgetting all their traditional rivalries to blitz the city with homeless coverage.

“It’s like a proof of principle for the city,” says Jon Steinberg, editor in chief of San Francisco magazine. “If all these independent businesses and individuals can set aside their differences and break down their little fiefdoms, just think of what our government agencies could do if they followed suit.”

In 2016, it’s fair to say that media is fractured -- consumers access news in an unprecedented number of formats, from a vast array of outlets. The idea here is to flood the city with coverage from almost all of these news sources, so no one can avoid thinking about the homeless. This project is the brainchild of Audrey Cooper, head editor at the San Francisco Chronicle. “The thought is, there is not anywhere you could turn that day where you aren’t forced to look at this,” says Michael Gray, enterprise and investigations editor at the Chronicle.

Gray is Cooper’s point person in the newsroom. While she builds partnerships and tends to big-picture strategy, he will manage the reporters and stories his paper is devoting to the cause. Though there is one official day for the citywide media event, the Chronicle intends to focus on homeless issues for the entire week of June 29th. It’s a massive project, and there are a host of moving parts to wrangle.

“Instead of just bemoaning the fact that this problem exists,” says Gray, “we want to move the dialogue in another direction.”

At last count, 30 organizations had pledged their involvement. This includes all the local television and radio stations, the San Francisco Examiner (Chronicle’s daily competitor), SF-based Mother Jones magazine, even the local arms of Buzzfeed and Mashable. Every outlet will tackle the problem differently, but the collective effect will be a deluge.

San Francisco’s homeless population approached 6,700 at last count, plus around 850 homeless youth. The problem is very apparent when you walk through many city neighborhoods, with de facto Hoovertowns lining scattered boulevards, pervasive smells of urine and feces, distressed individuals accosting passersby. Cooper told the New York Times a colorful tale of losing her cool when a homeless couple had sex in front of her infant child. It was a formative moment, part of her impetus for the entire project.

It’s not like the residents of San Francisco -- or its government agencies -- are unaware of the problem. This is common water cooler talk, but the tenor is often anecdotal, lacking in hope or meaningful analysis. (Sometimes it’s downright awful.) But the leaders of this project feel the problem is not endemic to the city -- progress can be achieved. “Instead of just bemoaning the fact that this problem exists,” says Gray, “we want to move the dialogue in another direction.”

The Chronicle has devoted much ink to homelessness in the past, but this time will be somewhat different. Instead of the classic journalistic approach of simply shining light on a problem, their reporters intend to present an array of potential solutions. They won’t purport to have all the answers, but they want to at least acknowledge the problem can be tackled.

Some outlets are shying from the Chronicle’s solutions-driven approach. Public radio affiliate KQED, another of the leaders in this project, plans to stick with what they are calling “pure journalism.” San Francisco magazine intends to provide political analysis -- “Something we’re good at,” says Steinberg -- as well as a huge, data-driven series of profiles of homeless individuals, produced in collaboration with outside partners.

“This is not just some West Coast hippie dippie thing,” says Steinberg. “San Francisco has the same kind of experienced and jaded journalists as you'll find anywhere. I’ve lived and worked in other cities -- including New York -- and I think so many places would jump at the chance to embrace this level of real journalism.”

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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Politics