CHRONICLE RESPONDS TO CHIEF FONG'S CRITICISM
Police Chief Heather Fong
By Melissa McRobbie and LaurieI sola, Bay City News Service
February 6, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - The San Francisco Chronicle tonight
responded to Police Chief Heather Fong's criticism of a series
of articles published by the newspaper on the use of force by
members of the Police Department.
Fong, at a news conference this afternoon, called the series
"irresponsible'' and questioned the articles' accuracy, including
the caption on a photo of a man The Chronicle identified as police
Sgt. John Haggett.
This evening, The Chronicle released a statement responding to
Fong's news conference, confirming that the photo caption was
incorrect but standing by the basic facts presented in the articles,
the first of which ran on Sunday.
"The person in the photograph is not SFPD Sgt. John Haggett,''
reads the statement, which was distributed by Patricia Hoyt, director
of media relations for the newspaper.
"The person in the photograph has never been a member of
the San Francisco Police Department and is in no way connected
to the use-of-force series,'' the statement continues. "The
Chronicle regrets the error.''
However, officials at The Chronicle argued that the mistake does
not reflect inaccuracy in the content of the series.
"The photo error, while serious, does not change the basic
issues raised by the series about the department's lack of a reliable
system for tracking use of force and its failure to hold accountable
officers who repeatedly resort to use of force,'' the statement
Officials at the newspaper took issue with allegations by Fong
that The Chronicle had turned down her request for information
on sources outside the department used for the articles.
The newspaper claims that Fong never made an official request
for such information, but that she was told by a reporter that
most of the data presented in the series was gathered from San
Francisco Police Department's own files.
Fong said the articles painted the department "with a very
broad brush'' and alleged that The Chronicle had erred in its
facts about the use of force, which she called "a very serious
issue that cannot be taken lightly,'' as the subject is "laden
with many intricacies.''
The newspaper also responded to allegations by mayoral spokesman
Peter Ragone that the newspaper was not truthful when it reported
in the series that Mayor Gavin Newsom "did not make himself
available for an interview despite repeated requests.''
Chronicle officials said a reporter was told by Ragone during
the writing of the articles that the mayor would be available
for an interview, but was never given a date or time.
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