OAKLAND | MAYOR | As an incumbent, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is constantly looking at her rearview mirror. With 18 potential challengers in hot pursuit this November, she might as well be driving a white Bronco. After a photograph of Quan was trumpeted by KRON two week, it seems every one of her enemies in Oakland have their cell phone cameras trained on the mayor. Every new occurrence seems to corroborate the last and bolster this new meme that not only is Quan bad for Oakland, she’s also literally dangerous.
However, what KRON and other local media outlets did last week was a shameful hit piece that would have even made the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci blush. When news hit Quan was involved in a fender bender in Oakland, KRON, the Chronicle and the Bay Area News Group framed the news around potentially specious accounts of the accident. For KRON, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy after the station received so much attention for the “People Behaving Badly” story on Quan and her cell phone. When was the last time viewers paid attention to KRON? Last week, they appeared to have overreached in reporting an account biased toward the mayor is driving reckless yet again meme.
Even the top brass at the Chronicle tweeted unverified accounts who say they saw Quan run the red light while using her cell phone. Such shading on the story at the early outset seems a bit risky, since there was not yet a police report and Quan side of the story and the offering of phone records were not yet presented. But, these media outlets trudged on like early reports a generation ago that Muslims were indeed the bombers of the Oklahoma City bombings. They didn’t.
It turns out maybe the media accounts of Quan’s minor scofflaw last week mixed with latent anger toward Quan fueled these early eyewitness reports. After the hubbub just days before, Quan is involved in an accident, how else could this story evolve in the minds of onlookers than she must have been talking on the phone once again and plowed into an innocent motorist? When a massive tsunami slammed into Indonesia a few years ago, it seemed like every little ripple in the ocean was reported by the media. News bureau are more conscience of the major event and consumers of the news are more keyed into the fact. It’s like never knowing of Gruyere cheese before trying a slice and completely loving it. Before you know it, your taste buds are tuned to Gruyere cheese and it periodically enters your consciousness–be it a serendipitous article in a magazine at the dentist office or a stroll down the cheese aisle at Safeway.
This exonerates those at the scene of the accident, but the local media is still at fault for this irresponsible behavior. Not only is there a strong anti-Quan presence in newsrooms around the East Bay, but there appears to be a great deal of cluelessness to what a personal attack against her sounds like to difference ears. Without the facts pinned down, these news outlets proffered a story about a middle-aged Chinese American woman whose erratic driving constitutes a menace to society. When did this cease being a racist stereotype of Asian drivers? What if the same newspapers and television stations ran stories about witnesses insinuating Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid, who is black, wasn’t attending council meetings and instead was seen eating fried chicken from Church’s in East Oakland? Residents would go nuts. In either case, it’s unfair and here’s the truth many female politicians will rarely admit: it’s hard running for office when you’re a woman. It’s even harder if you’re a female from a minority group.