Criticism Highlights the Case for Responsible Accountability Journalism

The website SFist on Thursday accused the San Francisco Public Press of inaccurate reporting and fabricating a source in an article on a private company that cleared a homeless street encampment last month. These allegations are false. The Public Press stands behind our story and two follow-up articles by reporter Nuala Bishari.

SFist’s 1,084-word posting claiming it would detail “inaccuracies and outright lies” by the Public Press cited just one person — the subject of Bishari’s reporting, the owner of an event venue and production company. SFist writer Jay Barmann made no attempt to seek comment from Bishari or the Public Press.

In contrast, for the first of three articles about the incident and its aftermath, Bishari spent four days reporting on site, over the phone and via email. She interviewed 10 people, including police, city public works officials, civil rights lawyers, eyewitnesses and corporate spokespeople.

Among those she interviewed was Peter Glikshtern, the owner of the event company Non Plus Ultra, whom she gave an opportunity to respond to all the points raised by critics of his company’s actions. Many of his comments were included in the original article.

She also interviewed representatives of the TechCrunch Disrupt conference that was producing an event in his space, who quickly distanced themselves from Glikshtern’s actions. Bishari reviewed more than 90 minutes of video recording of the Sept. 10 incident from two independent sources. Bishari and Public Press Managing Editor Liz Enochs each interviewed different eyewitnesses on two separate days.

The source the Public Press is accused of making up provided a credible and consistent accounting of the events in a video interview from a tent outside the venue on 12th Street south of Market Street. The man, who identified himself as Jeffery McLemore, described his experience during the sweep, including the belongings that he lost as a result, on camera in the company of other witnesses. 

Bishari’s article went through three layers of editing and fact-checking. It was reviewed by the Public Press’ managing editor, copy chief and executive director before publication on Sept. 15.

The response to the Public Press’ reporting on homelessness highlights the need for independent publications to adhere to high editorial standards to ensure their reporting is accurate and fair.

Accountability journalism — which scrutinizes those in power and presents the public with hard evidence — is hard. Those who pursue it should expect equally hard questions to be put to them. Competing publications perform a public service when they document deficiencies in the reporting, editing and publishing practices of other news organizations. Keen media criticism can make journalism more accountable, transparent and rigorous.

In the case of SFist’s take on media criticism, we’ll leave it to our readers to decide whether either the Public Press or SFist cut corners, sensationalized or made factual errors.

The Public Press’ editors invite readers to share any questions or concerns about our reporting through our email contact form, or via our Facebook or Twitter accounts. You can call the Public Press office line at (415) 495-7377. Readers are also able to weigh in through the moderated comment section at the bottom of each article. We respond to all challenges to our accuracy and independence, and issue corrections, clarifications and updates if they can be substantiated.

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