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Media and the sprinklers

April 3, 2015
James O. Clifford Sr.
Redwood City

The news coverage of the expose that St. Mary’s Cathedral had a sprinkler system that, like the rain from heaven, fell on anyone who stood under it, was a fine example of the old adage that news stories should be “the sum of the facts, not some of the facts.”

That coverage mushroomed when KCBS Radio reported that homeless people had been drenched (“Cathedral dismantles sprinklers,” Catholic San Francisco, March 25). The Chronicle ran with it, so did most everyone else, including The Associated Press, which meant virtually all news outlets got the AP story written by Olga Rodriquez.

Sounds familiar, I said to myself when I heard the story on KCBS. The story must also have jogged the memory of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. Or, perhaps, someone pointed out to the mayor that his hands weren’t clean. Whatever, Brown wrote a column in the March 22 issue of the Chronicle that was headlined “this sinner can’t stone bishop over dousing.”

“As mayor, I ordered Market Street to be hosed down every night,” he wrote in his “Willie’s World” column. He said homeless advocates howled but he told them that street sweeping was best done “in the middle of the night.”

That takes care of Brown’s mea culpa. I have not, however, seen any indication that KCBS, or any of the other media that ran the story, found Brown’s confession newsworthy. 

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