SCREEEEEECH!!! Stop the Presses!
We’re hibernating till July
By Betsey Culp
Because the Call is such a patriotic publication, I’ve
been joking, it will celebrate not only Memorial Day and the Fourth of
July but all the time between. It’s true: the San Francisco Call will
not publish at all – neither online nor in print – until the week of
It will not, however, be sitting by the ocean, working
on its tan. Instead, it – or at any rate its publisher – will be running
here and there, talking to as many people as possible, working on ways
to improve the paper and its finances. The time has come to prove the
SF Weekly right and make the SF Call into a real newspaper.
Since the Call left the streets, its website has
expanded. Many of you have emailed or called to say you like the
results. But this paper should be in print as well. It lost too many
cherished, non-techie readers when it folded up its newsracks and
retreated into cyberspace. As the city begins to implement its new
newsrack ordinance, it’s time to figure out a way to once again put ink
to newsprint and get out there where we belong.
I hope that you won’t abandon this website completely in
the next few weeks. New items will occasionally appear –
Keith Keener, for example, has
promised to send a proper positive review of “The Sum of All Fears” once
he’s actually seen the movie. (As today’s Watching City Hall notes, h.
brown will post his observations on a site of his own during the
interim.) I will try to keep you informed of our progress; if any
earth-shaking developments occur in June, either to this paper or to the
world at large, I’ll be sure to notify the people on the Call’s update
list. In the meantime, your suggestions are welcome, as always. In
particular, as the paper expands and reorganizes, what would you like to
see, or see more of? What leaves you cold?
Patriotism, it turns out, takes many forms. Sometimes it
means simply showing up. And that’s why we’ll be back.
The White House has just announced a loosening of the
rules governing FBI surveillance, allowing wider monitoring of
organizations and individuals with less central monitoring of local
agents. The potential effects on Americans’ freedom of speech are
terrifying. Or perhaps you’ve forgotten.
I remember when FBI agents used to regularly stop by the
office of the UC Berkeley History Department, inquiring about the
activities of certain students and faculty members. The department’s
administrative secretary ordered her staff not to give out any
information whatsoever, but others were not so brave or so high-minded.
I remember protesting for free speech or against the
Vietnam War and noticing, as a matter of course, the FBI-operated
cameras pointed at the demonstrators. We used to joke about the size of
our dossiers, but we also knew that the humor could easily turn sour.
If you need other witnesses, their numbers are legion.
For starters, take a look at the oral histories compiled by Bud and Ruth
It Did Happen
Here. For all its constitutional protection of
civil liberties, the line into suppression has always been easy to cross
in the United States.
Past paranoia? Perhaps. But imagine the consternation of
Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, when the giant search engine
ads for her political website because of unfriendly
remarks she had made about actor John Malkovich. (In a speech at
Cambridge University, Malkovich had criticized critics of Israel,
offering to shoot Independent reporter Robert Fisk. In response, Roddick
called Malkovich a “vomitous worm.” Google and Roddick have since
reluctantly reconciled, but the threat still
Even in the face of pressures like these, for self- and
official censorship, the spirit of an independent press has been a proud
part of the American heritage, since even before the stars and stripes
arrayed themselves on a red, white, and blue flag. In compiling
America: A Patriotic Primer, Lynne Cheney apparently had trouble
finding an entry for the letter Z, making do with the wishy-washy
statement, ''Z is the end of the alphabet.'' No, she didn’t close with
Peter Zenger, the most obvious choice. The Cheneys –
and Ashcrofts and Bushes – of this world would prefer to ignore the
existence of Zenger, the seventeenth-century newspaper publisher who
helped to institute the practice of
“speaking truth to power”
on these shores. But we ignore his example at our own peril.
The Call will be back.