SF Mayor Gavin Newsom vs. Everyone Else: Covering the Doomed

Categories: Government


Snitch Joe Eskenazi says "the popular conception of the 13 non-Newsom candidates as a pack of no-hope lunatics is not accurate. It’s actually a pack of no-hope, earnest City residents, lunatics and earnest City lunatics." God bless you, Joe. -d2

Political Party: The Not-Newsoms Meet & Greet
By Joe Eskenazi

The dictionary definition of the word “debate” is “a discussion, as of a public question in an assembly, involving opposing viewpoints.”

With that in mind, one could not label Friday’s political soiree in front of City Hall a debate by any stretch: Not once do I recall hearing the words “I disagree with that” or “I have an opposing viewpoint.” That’s not to say the 11 candidates who showed up were a homogenous lot, but even the Wolf and the Grasshopper went out of their way to agree that Mayor Gavin Newsom is a “chicken” and a “leech” (the animal motif is hard to ignore).

In fact, the only debate lies with journalists covering the event (who, incidentally, far outnumbered non-notebook wielding bystanders): How do you cover this?

The Chronicle, for its part, played it straight, ignoring the surreal element of a candidate driving his "home" onto City Hall green, and later telling the assembled throngs that “English is my third and only language” with a straight face (Yes, that would be homeless cabdriver Grasshopper Alec Kaplan for those scoring at home.).

Forced seriousness at bizarre events only paints an inaccurate picture of the ravings of candidates we’ll charitably call “eccentric.” However, the popular conception of the 13 non-Newsom candidates as a pack of no-hope lunatics is not accurate. It’s actually a pack of no-hope, earnest City residents, lunatics and earnest City lunatics.

Friday’s juxtaposition of candidates like Quintin Mecke (a hard-working organizer for the City’s poorest residents), with oddballs or calculated weirdoes was a bit maddening.
One can’t help but be reminded of the scene in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in which Richard Dreyfuss and his fellow UFO witnesses hold a press conference — and the cameras inevitably group around the scraggly old coot that claims he saw Bigfoot once.

Granted, the Chron went out of its way to not do this, but the fact that the race for mayor has basically come down to “Gavin Newsom and everyone else” colors the coverage. The crazy behavior of one candidate bleeds into the public perception of the lot; it’d be as if Dennis Kucinich weighed just as heavily in campaign stories as John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

As a journalist, I’m just not sure what to do about that. [As an editor, the craziness gets page views, too. -ed]

I’m also unsure what to do about Candidate Josh Wolf — the anarchist, blogger and former prisoner showed up to a mayoral debate with his shoes untied.


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