Dog Bites

Under Coverage
The Chronicle's AIDS coverage just ain't what it used to be. The morning daily hasn't fielded a full-time AIDS reporter since the late Randy Shilts went part time in 1988. Instead of setting the standard, the Chron has increasingly turned to wire stories to shore up its coverage of the disease that has killed more than 15,000 San Franciscans. Case in point: The last Page One AIDS story in the Chron -- a March 2 item on the FDA's speedy approval of the drug ritonavir -- was reprinted from the Los Angeles Times.

"The Chronicle is not in the Dark Ages or completely off the radar screen, but its coverage is not particularly coordinated or thoughtful," says Derek Gordon, of the S.F. AIDS Foundation, who notes that San Francisco has the highest incidence of HIV per capita in the United States.

It's a different story at the Examiner, where medical writer Lisa M. Krieger has been on the AIDS beat for the past decade, covering breaking news and filling the AIDSweek column every Wednesday.

"Krieger and the Examiner have done a far better job and been more thorough than the Chronicle," says Bay Times Editor and Publisher Kim Corsaro. "The Chronicle has not had the same focus on AIDS since Shilts left. I don't think there would be much disagreement out there about that fact."

No so, says Chronicle Managing Editor Daniel Rosenheim, who argues that several reporters, including science writers David Perlman and Charles Petit and health policy writer Sabin Russell, offer insightful coverage of AIDS even if they do not cover it exclusively.

"I don't think the Examiner is beating the Chronicle," Rosenheim maintains. "We do a very good job, but we can always do better."

That's the Ticket
"Real People With a Really Hard Job" -- no, that's not the story of your life. It's the most recent slogan for the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT), available for your viewing pleasure on 30 bus shelters across the city.

Now, we're talking about parking-ticketers here, and OK, we'll grant them the "real people" part. But how hard is "really hard"?

The job description of a Parking Control Officer (PCO) doesn't sound arduous. The minimum requirements are only two: a California driver's license, and one year of working with "the public." The duties don't seem egregious: operate "a three-wheeled vehicle," "respond to requests for information from citizens," and "issue citations." Even the pay isn't bad: Senior PCOs can make $2,500 a month, almost $30,000 a year.

So what's hard about that? To get your answer, look in the mirror. According to DPT Executive Director John Newlin, the PCOs regularly "get yelled at, assaulted, screamed at, spit on." Gasp.

The new slogan, Newlin says, aims to "heighten the sensitivity of the public towards the PCOs." Even while they're issuing their 2.3 million tickets a year, that is.

Trial by Pill
A new abortion pill is undergoing clinical trials at the University of California at San Francisco. Methotrexate, a drug used to combat cancer and psoriasis, has already been proven 90 percent effective as an abortifacient when injected during the first eight weeks of pregnancy, according to UCSF Professor Philip Darney, and now the drug is being tested in pill form through San Francisco General Hospital. If proved effective, methotrexate might eventually be made available for home use, Darney says. Women seeking information on the trial can call (415) 502-0299.

By Gordon Young, Liza Goodwin, Ellen McGarrahan

 
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