Wednesday, March 10 the San Francisco Chronicle’s political columnist duo Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross penned an incendiary piece about how the LGBT Community Center in San Francisco was supposedly near foreclosure and was seeking a $1 million cash infusion from the city to help keep its doors open.
The story was picked up by countless LGBT news aggregation sites – as well as the Associated Press – and quickly went viral on the Web. Joe.My.God titled its post “SF LGBT Center in Financial Crisis.”
There was one problem though – the columnists hadn’t gotten the facts quite right. Since the piece ran LGBT center officials have had to do damage control and explain that, in fact, they are not in financial crisis or about to foreclose on the building.
In an email sent out this week by center executive director Rebecca Rolfe, she called the Matier and Ross column “inaccurate and inflammatory.”
Last week the center’s board co-chairs and Rolfe issued a letter in response to the mistakes made by the columnists. And over the weekend center staffers contacted those Web sites that ran with the incorrect story to ask them to publish corrections.
Both the Advocate.com and local blog SFist.com did just that, along with several other sites that had picked up on the story. But just as many others have not corrected themselves, as a Google search shows.
Other than publish a letter to the editor, near as I can tell the SF Chronicle has not followed suit, nor has any update or change been made to the online version of the March 10 Matier & Ross column.
The episode is a good example of the problem with bloggers and Web sites not checking the facts before they re-post an item in another news source. And it is a prime reason why LGBT news outlets are needed in this day and age when mainstream news outlets have done away with their LGBT beat reporters.
A little Googling would have brought up my newspaper’s original reporting on the SF center’s request for city funds in a story published February 4, which did get the facts right. Curiously enough that story was ignored by the same bloggers and Web sites that ran with the Chronicle column over a month later.
But as they say bad news can be good news. And in a guest editorial the B.A.R. published today (March 18) gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty believes the events of the last two weeks could have an upside for his push to secure the city loan for the center.
“The San Francisco Chronicle‘s recent headline, “LGBT Center looks to San Francisco for a bailout,” certainly cast some clouds over 1800 Market Street.
But grabbing the community’s attention may be the silver lining by fostering discussion about the center, its great programming and unique role, especially around economic opportunity,” wrote Dufty.
Sometimes it pays to remember that if you are reading an LGBT news item in the mainstream press, chances are it is really old news and was previously covered in an LGBT news outlet. And often the gay press article is more accurate or less spun than the mainstream version.
Something for those bloggers who claim there is no need anymore for more traditional LGBT news outlets to chew on.