Letters to the Editor

Week of October 30, 2002

There aren't many women of color, particularly immigrants, visibly engaged in the U.S. "movement," and I was happy to learn about this group, even if through Byrne's confused and idiotic spotlight. And it's a shame that I and your other readers had to do the work of sifting through Byrne's obviously fabricated controversy to learn about them.

Sitara Nieves Kapoor
Panhandle

House Poor

Youcan go home again:There are at least two problems with Matt Smith's piece on homeowning opponents of Prop. R ["You Don't Own Me," Oct. 16].

First, it is false that Prop. R is a proposal to facilitate ordinary San Franciscans owning homes. There is nothing in it that will force landlords to sell apartments at prices affordable to the typical renter. Most renter households in the city do not have an income that would enable them to qualify for a mortgage at the $300,000 purchase price that Smith cites. Prop. R sacrifices renter security for the benefit of an elite few.

If R passes, the likely scenario is that landlords will seek out the high-income minority of tenants as buyers. Prop. R only requires a minority of tenants to go along with a conversion. The resulting speculative frenzy will increase the market value of rental buildings -- that's why landlords back Prop. R. This will make it less possible for renters to buy apartments.

Second, Smith's piece ignores the fact that there is an alternative to Prop. R for renters wanting to own their apartments. The city's Community Land Trust Task Force backs a proposal that, unlike Prop. R, would actually facilitate ownership of apartments by low- to moderate-income renters. Since Chris Daly is a backer of the Community Land Trust proposal, it is false that he is an opponent of renters being able to own their apartments.

Tom Wetzel
Mission

Uncovering the Cover-Up

A challenge from Project Censored:Matt Palmquist poked fun at and trivialized Project Censored's 2003 list of censored news stories in his Sept. 18 column ["Project Censored," Dog Bites]. The jabs seemed to be much about giving the San Francisco Bay Guardian-- your S.F. Bay rival -- a slap over their longtime coverage of the research we do here at Sonoma State University. However, making fun of a most serious topic is both an insult to the thousands of research hours put in by over 100 students, 90 evaluators, and 25 national judges who worked on the Censored 2003 book, as well as a rebuke to the individual investigative reporters who wrote the stories.

I challenged Palmquist to prove his claim that nine of the top 10 censored news stories were covered in the New York Times, and he sent me back a general topics list on story No. 1 that did not reflect the actual content of the story on our list. Even my beginning freshmen researchers know that when you are using database searches you have to read the story in depth, understand the main ideas, select key words for the search, and fully read the text of results to verify that the stories match. This process can take several hours of online research.

Clearly Palmquist did not read the Censored 2003 book because he clearly missed the main point -- that corporate media has abdicated its responsibility to the First Amendment to keep the American public informed on key issues within our democracy. The corporate media is in the entertainment business, and tends to ignore important news stories of which the American public has a right to be aware. SF Weekly writer Matt Palmquist mindlessly seemed to follow in this tradition.

Peter Phillips, Ph.D.
Director, Project Censored
Sonoma State University
Rohnert Park

Matt Palmquist responds: My sympathies to the students who invested so much time researching Project Censored. In one afternoon, using Nexis and the New York Times' Web site, I did indeed find that nine of the top 10 "censored" topics -- as presented in the group's press release and book (which I did read) -- had been covered in significant stories in our nation's generally accepted newspaper of record.

Each year, Project Censored hands out awards to journalists who have written specific articles; Dr. Phillips apparently believes only these stories tell the "real" story, and unless the mainstream media reaches conclusions that dovetail precisely with those of a Project Censored winner -- almost always a member of the left-press -- the topic remains uncovered or "censored." I disagree, especially when the list of so-called censored topics includes such widely covered (i.e., absolutely not censored) stories as "FCC moves to privatize airwaves" (No. 1), "U.S. Government pushes nuclear revival" (No. 6), and "U.S. Faces National Housing Crisis" (No. 9). Indeed, this year's edition of Dr. Phillips' book itself lists "corporate media coverage" (meaning the New York Times and other leading news outlets) of five of the top 10 "censored" topics.

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