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Cover story about Homeless Shelter

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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby rabble » Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:09 am

Now that I've finally had time to read it, I also fall into the "didn't exactly tug at my heartstrings" category. I was homeless a few times in the 70's and things don't seem to have changed that much. Some places are better than others, free food often ain't that great, some volunteers and staff aren't nice to you, and if you're not careful you get bugs. Live on the street long enough and you get bugs, period.

Technically well written article. But I don't choose to volunteer my time to help out and don't believe I have a right to criticize anybody who does, even if I thought there was criticism due. Which I don't.

What I'm more curious about is, four days ago johnny_psunami wanted to know what we thought about it but hasn't chimed in since.
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby eeyore » Fri Feb 19, 2010 11:13 pm

Did anybody else find the juxtaposition of articles more than coincidental? The shelter article, which lays out how Porchlight provides almost 32,000 bed-nights (or whatever the unit would be) and over 60,000 meals (I'm assuming dinner and breakfast every night, though I don't know that to be true) on $310,000 a year. Next page -- Overture budget. A little more than two blocks away, annual budget over $13 million, deficit for the latest 15 months: $900K. Annual city contribution $1.8 million.

A bit of an interesting statement on priorities, without resorting to an editorial. I thought both articles were pretty well-written and researched, and a good example of what Isthmus does for Madison that no other entity does.
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby Franklynn Peterson » Sat Feb 20, 2010 8:50 am

This week’s Isthmus is out and nary a correction or comment or apology about the either stupid or deliberate errors in last week’s travesty about the shelter at Grace Episcopal Church Well, they did publish a notice that Grace does not operate the homeless shelter, only provides space. And they singled out for publication the one blogged entry that praised the article and ignored the array of blogged and emailed items that took serious exception with tone and facts. Not surprising, since old authors and journalists like me call this A STORY WRITTEN BEFORE FINDING ANY FACTS.

What I find to be the worst of the misleading parts of the 2/12/10 diatribe:
1. The reporter and Isthmus’ owner, Vince O’Hern, seem nonplus about reporter Joe Tarr taking up one bed in a shelter already overcrowded. When they executed this travesty in late January, Madison was in the grip of an unseasonably cold winter. The day we believe he crashed the shelter, the weather service records report there was 1-4 inches of freezing rain in a wind chill of 24-degrees. Tar and O’Hern ought to be ashamed.
2. From the start, a so-called volunteer is quoted and cited repeatedly. Turns out that, either unbeknownst to Isthmus’s reporter--or known and obviously and deliberately unreported for reasons one can only guess at—is the fact that this Donna Asif heads a committee for Capital Neighborhood Inc., which has a reputation for trying to brush the homeless under a rug—preferably a long way from association members’ downtown mansions. The committee has brazenly received foundation funding to hold seminars on, so far as I’m concerned, how to deal with the problems of making the homeless disappear. In fact, Asif is nowhere to be found on the Shelter list of volunteers, nor does she contribute meals or serving of meals. So far as staff was able to determine, she was nowhere near Grace Episcopal the night Isthmus’ reporter reported himself homeless.
3. In fact, NO VOLUNTEER from any legitimate volunteer committee was included in the piece. By the end of the article, nobody but a longtime volunteer would be likely to fathom that the reason Porchlight can run the shelter on a $300,000 per year budget and provide 2 hot meals a day is that nearly 100 religious organizations have been for more than a decade buying the food for dinners and breakfasts and preparing and serving them. As Ellouise Beatty emailed me, “ I volunteer at Grace Church at 5am once a month and I cannot imagine what this fellow was looking at, observing or eating.” Another volunteer wondered why this hotshot journalist was unable to use the huge microwave sitting in the Shelter’s eating area, unless he felt a need to complain that his food was cold. Nor did he report that the volunteer organization who prepared a hot dinner and fixings for a hot breakfast couldn’t drive to the Square.
4. No mention was made that a large percentage of men using the shelter get pre-dawn wakeup calls and leave for fulltime jobs.
5. The guests were demeaned when Isthmus focused on drugs and alcoholism and theft. Judi and I took each of our children with us to shelter volunteer sessions, and our Madison son now takes his kids aged 6 and 9. In fact, when Ellie had a birthday, they bought a huge cake and the whole bunch of guests, staff and volunteers sang “Happy Birthday” and shared in the cake. Boy that’s scary!
6. Self-proclaimed homeless activists quoted in the piece--none of whom appear to run their own shelters--are about as disingenuous as the author: activist #1 says he got drunk and started a fight in the Grace shelter and arrested. He admits to being so drunk he can’t remember the incident. He complains that he’s been sober for all of 3 weeks now and the shelter won’t let him back in yet. Activist #2 is quoted in the next line complaining about the shelter’s “anything goes” atmosphere.
7. No mention is made of the large drawer kept stocked largely by volunteers that holds supplies of tooth brushes, combs, soap, razors and other personal hygiene items. They go fast! Last time we stopped at Delaney’s on Highway 12, we grabbed a box of several hundred individual soaps from a bankrupt Hilton Hotel that were destined for the shelter.
8. An earlier issue of Isthmus devoted nearly a column to a developer with high-ticket properties in the Capitol area who groused the old “not in my neighborhood” song and dance. He proposed sending them over to a nonresidential east side location with limited access to transportation.
9. I haven’t even tried to count the number of “Blaska’s Blogs” in isthmus that refer to the homeless as mostly sickos, alcoholics, vagrants who love vagrancy and aggressive panhandlers.
10. For the record, nearly 1 out of every 4 military veterans are homeless. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, “More than 67 percent (of homeless vets) served our country for at least three years and 33 percent were stationed in a war zone.”

Is
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby rabble » Sat Feb 20, 2010 11:50 am

Franklynn Peterson wrote:Another volunteer wondered why this hotshot journalist was unable to use the huge microwave sitting in the Shelter’s eating area, unless he felt a need to complain that his food was cold.

That, right there, tells me the article was a lie. A classic example of partial, yellow journalism with absolutely no desire to give the reader truth. You raise some very important and easily verifiable points, but that one indicates a conscious omission of important facts. Why complain about cold food when there's a microwave right there for everyone to see and use?

At a time when we decry the right's complete disregard for the truth and cherrypicking facts to prove a non-existent point, why do something like that unless the intent is to present a false image?

Joe Tarr: I would very much like to see a post from you answering Franklynn's points. Or anyone at Isthmus for that matter.

I would VERY much like to know johnny_psunami's take on all this too. :-)
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby Franklynn Peterson » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:28 am

Looks like Isthmus has no answers to the problems I listed. Unless Vince O'Hern canned him and nobody else cares to answer. Shame. Folks used to count on Isthmus as one of our stellar sources of good information. Guess it's now the Fox Network of Madison papers.
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby boston_jeff » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:50 am

I too was appalled that this person would take a bed at a capacity homeless shelter on a cold winter night in order to write a "story." Along with their promotion and loyalty to Blaska, more reason to be critical of the Isthmus. Its no wonder the "newspaper" business is dying.
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby Dairylander » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:19 am

boston_jeff wrote:I too was appalled that this person would take a bed at a capacity homeless shelter on a cold winter night in order to write a "story."

How else could he get an objective perspective?
Besides, it's not like he displaced anyone:

"Schooler boasts, 'We've never turned anyone away because of capacity. If it's a cold night, we let everybody in.'"
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby boston_jeff » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:30 am

Objective...
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby rabble » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:31 am

Dairylander wrote:How else could he get an objective perspective?
Besides, it's not like he displaced anyone

Agreed on both counts.

But my complaint is that his perspective is not objective at all. I think he stayed there to a) make himself appear objective and b) look for evidence to support the conclusion he reached before he walked in.
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby Dairylander » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:45 am

rabble wrote:But my complaint is that his perspective is not objective at all.

The same could be said about any article in any paper.

When the options are:
1-Interview the staff
2-Interview the guests
3-Sleep there yourself
The third is ostensibly the most objective.
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby boston_jeff » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:18 pm

Actually that is utter horseshit. Even if you have an informed comparative perspective, that strategy would not be the most "objective." If you don't know what is typical (with regard to whatever topic you are researching) and you are biased to begin with, its not objective at all. You decide what you want to put in the story based on your impressions. How is that more objective than deferring to those who know their shit and have a basis for comparison (the experts in this case being the homeless and volunteers/advocates). The interviewing he did was far more valuable than anything that came out of that half-assed undercover operation.

Its a stunt (disguised as investigative journalism). Kind of like their out-of-touch but mildly offensive Blaska blog babble. The Isthmus knows its crappy journalism, but they publish it because its quasi-subversive and people may react. It may increase readership by an iota. Then again, we're talking about an alt weekly that does TV reviews of "Dancing with the Stars" and "American Idol."
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby Dairylander » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:43 pm

boston_jeff wrote:Actually that is utter horseshit.
Its a stunt (disguised as investigative journalism).

Do you think he would have gotten the same honesty from the the guests if he approached them with a microphone and notebook, flashing his reporter credentials?
Walking in their shoes for a few hours was an effective way to better understand this story.

And by the way,
"Its" is a possessive pronoun.
"It's" means "it is".
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby Kenneth Burns » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:50 pm

boston_jeff wrote:Then again, we're talking about an alt weekly that does TV reviews of "Dancing with the Stars" and "American Idol."


I'm having a hard time following your scattershot rhetorical approach, but you have now wandered into my section of the paper. Can I help you?
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby rabble » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:56 pm

Dairylander wrote:
rabble wrote:But my complaint is that his perspective is not objective at all.

The same could be said about any article in any paper.

When the options are:
1-Interview the staff
2-Interview the guests
3-Sleep there yourself
The third is ostensibly the most objective.

Okay, we'll leave out almost all of Franklynn's points for now, except one. He didn't mention the microwave but did mention the food was cold.

Are you saying that omission was objective, irrelevant, or that it was okay because everyone else does it?

I'm not sure what you meant to do, but the meaning I get from your post is that this article was as objective as any news story that's ever been written by any journalist. Is that what you meant?
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Re: Cover story about Homeless Shelter

Postby rabble » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:58 pm

Dairylander wrote:Do you think he would have gotten the same honesty from the the guests if he approached them with a microphone and notebook, flashing his reporter credentials?
Walking in their shoes for a few hours was an effective way to better understand this story.

So you think the story presents a fair and factual view?
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