Making Lemonade of the Chron's Lemon

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By Sarah Phelan

It’s hard to stay in the public eye when you’re stuck in jail and denied in-person and on-camera interviews, as freelance journalist Josh Wolf has been for the over six months. So, I have to give it to Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders for reminding everyone of Josh Wolf’s plight, even if what I really have to give Saunders is a Lemon Award.

Saunders tries to spin Wolf’s case with the old smear that Wolf isn’t really a journalist. It’s a spin that began in the SFPD and the US Attorney General’s Office, as the Bay Guardian discovered months ago, but doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The minute Wolf sold his footage to KRON-TV, his work qualified as news. And journalism is about gathering and spreading the news, not sitting in a corporate headquarters and drawing a pay check to write spin.

Saunders also tries to smear Wolf by belittling his efforts to tell stories compared to those of “real journalists, such as the Chronicle’s Lance Williams and Mark Fairanu-Wada.” If Saunders is going to refer to the whole “confidentiality source agreement” business, then maybe she should remind readers of the whole sordid story behind that affair.

Next, she tries to smears Wolf case by accusing the Board of Supervisors of not having done everything they could to find out who attacked Officer Peter Shields, who was out of work for a year after his skull was fractured during the protest that Wolf filmed. Too bad, she didn’t figure out that
investigators have federalized the case on bogus grounds
: there was no arson of a police car, just a broken taillight. But, hey, how else were they gonna get around California’s reporter shield laws. (Other than by claiming that Wolf wasn’t a journalist.)

Finally, Saunders tries to smear Wolf with a bait and switch: apparently, this isn’t about an attack on a cop. It’s about an attack on a gay man. Last time, we checked, Wolf did not attack any cops, straight or gay. Nor did he film the attack in question. What he did film was the other officer beating up an anarchist. But who cares about the truth when you’re busy spinning?

The only thing that seems to concern Saunders about Wolf being caged is that it’s costing tax payers dollars. Yeah. Along with trying to turn Wolf into an investigative tool of the government and chill dissent in the process. But who cares about free speech?

So, thanks, Saunders, for reminding us about Wolf. Enjoy the lemonade.