Wednesday, April 23, 2014

SF Chron: Punish Homeless Library Patrons, Not Photogs' Lawbreaking

Journalistic hypocrisy thy name is the Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle and its editors.

Over the past seven months, the major daily has gone after homeless people at the main public library for violating library rules and breaking the law and demanded Mayor Ed Lee and the library commission enhance punishment for homeless patrons who don't follow the rules and law. Previous posts on the Chronicle's photos are here and here.

(Photo credit: Michael Macor, SF Chronicle.)

It is against the library's code of conduct to snap photos anywhere in the main branch at Civic Center, and state law prohibits photographing individuals in public restrooms as explained in section 647(j)(1) of the penal code.

Yet, none of that stopped Chronicle editors, reporters and staff photographers from coordinating the taking of photos of homeless folks in the library's restrooms including images of a man at a urinal, top image, and men behind metal partitions clearly sitting on toilets. The photos appeared in the print edition of the Chronicle and on their web site.

The Chronicle on Monday editorialized in favor of enhanced punishment -- for some library users -- totally ignoring their photographers' potentially illegal behavior:

With the support of Mayor Ed Lee, the San Francisco Public Library is trying to crack down on unruly behavior. It's about time.

Frequent patrons to some of the library's branches, especially the main branch downtown, are plenty familiar with the kind of behavior that the library commission is seeking to restrict.

Incidents such as indecent exposure, verbal harassment and outright assault happen all too regularly in the aisles, and it can make the library a frightening experience for its patrons. Lee called for an overhaul of the rules after a string of events that included the assault of a patron with a chair and someone urinating on a bookshelf.

Yes, there are problems among some library patrons and a better solution to dealing with the unruly folks would be stationing social workers at the main branch to provide outreach and mental health services. The paper goes on to say:

The proposed revisions beef up penalties for some existing violations, like fighting and misusing the restrooms. 

Well, if we're going to address misusing the restrooms we need to address the Chronicle's hypocrisy of sending photographers into them and taking photos. Of course, the editors conveniently omit the bad behavior of their employees at the library.

If we're going to have a crackdown on such behavior, let's be sure the authorities also target Chronicle photographers.

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