How the story the local media originally reported is falling apart

From a work in progress. . .

Note (8/7/97): the actual number of people brought to the Hall of Justice for booking was 101, not 250 as widely reported. We've just learned that this information was available as soon as July 26th, the day after the ride and may even have been available the night of July 25th.

The day after the July 25th Critical Mass Ride in San Francisco, the entire Bay Area news media industry began repeating the story that 250 bicyclists from the event had been arrested for crimes like running red lights, attacking cars and assaulting police officers.

The same day, we pointed out that the vast majority of those arrested were not charged with any specific crimes - because they had not committed any - but rather with vague and unprosecutable offenses like unlawful assembly and failure to disperse.

It took until the afternoon edition of the San Francisco Examiner of July 31, five days after we reported this easily discovered information, for the local media to catch up with the facts.

But that's not all

Little did we suspect that the reports of the number of those arrested were completely bogus as well. As it turns out, the police record shows only 115, not 250 were arrested, an exageration of over 100%. And indeed 98 of those 115 were charged with minor infractions, leaving only 17 with real charges.

Consider this: The original media crowd estimate was 10,000 when the group formed in Justin Herman Plaza. Obviously, a static group within fixed boundries is easier to estimate than a moving one scattered throughout the city. After the ride began, the number of riders was downgraded to 5,000, a reduction of 50%. Which number do you believe?


What if the original press reports, instead of containing sloppy and inaccurate reporting, had stated the truth? 10,000 rode, 115 were arrested, 98 of them on minor and in many cased unprosecutable infractions, and 17, or less than 2/10 of one percent, of the riders on other charges.

Less than 2/10 of 1% arrested on serious charges. The media reported and re-reported a percentage over 25 times higher (5% = 5,000 riding/250 arrested).

A web site reported the accurate account on July 26. It took the local media (two dallies and four television news departments) an additional five days to catch up with the truth.

Media in San Francisco c. 1997. What other stories are they failing to report honestly and professionally?

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