Thursday, December 18, 2014

Diego's Reflection, and Eviction

(Photo: Megan Wolfe, taken on August 15, 2012)

Diego sat at the table next to me, and introduced himself by giving me a poem. Spending most of his nights alone in his North Beach apartment, he had ventured into the cafe for dinner. Sharing his poetry was a great excuse to connect with new people.

He wrote this one in particular to express the love he felt for his wife, and the lingering sorrow of her passing. They were married for 36 years. I was surprised when he told me he had married late, at age 40. He told me he had immigrated to the US at 17 from Italy, so most of his twenties were spent acquiring citizenship. His thirties were then dedicated to helping his family back home, financially. His wife, whom he met in the city, was an American.

The poem is as follows:
Reflection, by Diego DeLeo

From day one I needed someone 
The same for everyone: 

The need extends throughout our lives
to fill the void, I with loving wife
completed that which itself is depleted 

When loved ones leave us early
the love we lose can cost us dearly 

To help, love each other was our goal
Her sweet image remains in my soul
Time of youth too brief
seems too long when we grieve 

Our ancestors stars do not care
how we deal with our affairs
Looking at the sky to soothe our hurt
The sky embracing earth 

I'm optimistic for my tomorrow
To ward away unwanted sorrow
I take my dream to bed tonight
Inside I find the brightest light: 

Though the world gets small and dark
I'm with my love at Stony Park

I think about Diego whenever I see articles about the latest round of evictions in San Francisco. He's one of several people I worry about - including the dozen or so elderly that lived in the building I oversaw as a property manager downtown. I never know if things are ok with them, and sometimes, I hesitate to ask if anyone knows. Frankly, I'm afraid of the answer.

I just happened to see this article on Facebook today about Diego, and how there was an attempt to evict him out of his North Beach apartment last year using the Ellis Act. The article, published by Beyond Chron, states:
"DeLeo received an Ellis Act eviction notice from Zacks Freedman, the law firm representing his landlord, Martin Coyne, in August 2013. Zacks Freedman is one of the City’s most notorious Ellis Act evictors."
And, the good news..
"The Superior Court ruled that DeLeo’s eviction notice was “fatally defective” because it identified DeLeo’s unit as being in the wrong building on the property. It also failed to state that the landlord was withdrawing all the buildings on the property from the rental market. Commenting on DeLeo’s victory, his attorney Steve Collier of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic said, “tenants should realize that they can defeat Ellis evictions. The more tenants challenge these evictions, the more speculators will realize that they cannot make a quick profit off San Francisco’s red hot real estate market.”"
I'm so happy to see that Diego won the fight for his home. I hope his story inspires more San Francisco residents to stand up for themselves. 

Read the full article about Diego DeLeo on Beyond Chron.

Organizing Newspaper Clips

I really need to update my site with a few things.. 'a few things' meaning recent newspaper clips. Although some of them I'm not sure about. 

In the past, I've left newspaper clips off of my site because they were articles-only (articles I've written where my accompanying photos weren't published), or the photos weren't especially noteworthy in the way they were published (sometimes, they're published very small and/or very cropped). Those I don't plan to retroactively share, but some of my recent ones have the same issue: they're a mixed bag.

What I will post: front page shots, definitely; magazine shots, definitely. But black and white shots on interior pages? Maybe?

Thankfully, until I have time to look everything over in the New Year, there's a handful more photos getting published, and some more options to choose from. I just have to pick, and update.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Community & Emus Loose in Egnar

Truth be told, my move back to Mississippi was a half-cocked, hair-brained (and every other cliche) attempt to give my dream of being a photojournalist (which had been the stepchild of my artist dream for years) room to breathe. I might even call it a drastic, or desperate move. I just needed to do it.

To make it work in San Francisco was too much for me, too soon. From several false starts in the city I learned that I needed to be more detached, less sensitive to others, and considerably more cut-throat. And that doesn't embody the community spirit that I wanted to have in my work, or for myself in general. So I moved back to a place I knew, to start fresh, and to cut my losses. Hopefully, along the way I would also figure out what makes the small-town lifestyle tick.

I'm still working on that last part. At my core, I'm still a city-slicker.

This week I wanted to list my favorite journalism books from 2014. The ones that have accompanied me through this past year of freelancing. But I started with "Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns" and it stuck with me more than the others. 

Egnar got to me because I could see how it related to my small, Mississippi town, and it motivated me to get to know it a little better. Through the featured stories about community newspapers, I find the same idealism I find in many of our dedicated Mississippi residents. It may at times seem overtly optimistic, or worse, romantic like a Chicken Soup for the Journalist's Soul, but these are real stories. There are real frustrations expressed by these community editors, and real challenges, and real successes.

Out of the books I've read, this is a must, for sure. Below is the description of the book from Amazon. "Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns", by Judy Muller is available on Amazon in hardcover, or for the Kindle.

At a time when mainstream news media are hemorrhaging and doomsayers are predicting the death of journalism, take heart: the First Amendment is alive and well in small towns across America. In Emus Loose in Egnar, award-winning journalist Judy Muller takes the reader on a grassroots tour of rural American newspapers, from an Indian reservation in Montana to the Alaska tundra to Martha’s Vineyard, and discovers that many weeklies are not just surviving, but thriving.

In these small towns, stories can range from club news to Klan news, from broken treaties to broken hearts, from banned books to escaped emus; they document the births, deaths, crimes, sports, and local shenanigans that might seem to matter only to those who live there. And yet, as this book shows us, these “little” stories create a mosaic of American life that tells us a great deal about who we are—what moves us, angers us, amuses us.

Filled with characters both quirky and courageous, the book is a heartening reminder that there is a different kind of “bottom line” in the hearts of journalists who keep churning out good stories, week after week, for the corniest of reasons: that our freedoms depend on it. Not that they would put it that way, necessarily. In the words of one editor in Colorado, “If we found a political official misusing taxpayer funds, we wouldn’t hesitate to nail him to a stump.”

Homeless in Silicon Valley

The income disparity in the Bay Area brings additional media attention to "The Jungle", America's most notorious homeless camp. Earlier this month the camp was dismantled by the city of San Jose.

As a follow-up to my previous Storify story on the housing crisis in San Francisco, here's a story about the dismantling of The Jungle in San Jose. This Storify includes articles, photos, and tweets from the people who were involved. 

Click below to read more.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014's Social News

This piqued my interest earlier today. is a new kind of newsroom that will be driven by social media. They're just getting started, but recently held a live Q&A session on Twitter describing their approach.

Click "read more" below to see the highlights from Storify, by

Thoughts on the Future of Online News

Part of my "migration" over the last year has involved, well, a migration of profession. How to take a tech-savvy fine artist who freelances as a photographer, and steadily recreate her into a photojournalist?

Since my temporary move to Mississippi, I've been freelancing as both a photographer and (an occasional) writer for two local newspapers. I can check a few basic skills off of my list there, plus I'm accumulating tear sheets (in my past freelancing life I was a photographer for web content, and, although I have them on my site too, screen shots are not quite as thrilling to show off as a physical newspaper). For my regular day-job, I manage social media and web content for a retail business, which includes taking a few product photos as needed. Between the two my skills are somewhat varied.

Lucky for me, variety seems to be a plus. Lately, these seemingly separate things have been melding together in the global newsroom. Where the news was once flailing around trying to find a place in the digital world, things are now steadily clicking into place. Agency-driven media, or "content producers" (the little brother of wire services), are devoting part of their manpower to filtering the internet and analyzing the newsworthiness of trends and hashtags.

From the digital noise, they pick the highlights to report, or editorialize. Social media like Storify (of which I have become a recent addict), makes it even easier, allowing reporters to pull content from Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook and organize them into a cohesive stream. From what I can tell, most content producers are using the service for displaying tweets, though it has a great multi-media appeal.

Personally, I'm in love with Storify. It's so much fun to create a story, and it's great for presenting an overview of what people are saying. It took me a while (and a little studying) for the lightbulb to go off, but using services like this to organize content is just the beginning. I strongly believe the new wave of journalism jobs will largely involve content management skills and crowd-sourcing. And I'm pretty excited to see where it all goes over this next year.

Find me on Storify:

Monday, December 8, 2014

The San Francisco Housing Crisis

I'm passionately following the housing crisis in San Francisco. As as a former ten-plus year resident, I feel very close to what's happening there. To give an overview of the situation, I created a Storify "story" featuring some of the articles I've read, plus tweets from residents.

Click "read more" below to see the full story.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Crossbreed Migration

crossbreed (krôs’brēd’)
v. To produce a hybrid animal or plant by breeding two animals or two plants of different species or varieties.

migration mi·gra·tion (mī-grā’shən) 
n. The moving from place to place.

In the past I've been called a "crossbreed" by those close to me. That is, someone who is neither here, nor there. That's a fairly accurate label. I'm from the south, but made a life in San Francisco. To me, that city will always be home. However, I'm not Californian. And I'm definitely not Southern. I'm somewhere in the middle.

When the second dot com blew up, I was one of hundreds of displaced artists who chose to move on. So I made a choice to go back to the south, and begin evaluating other cities for a fresh start. "The Crossbreed Migration" is a blog that collects together a few different thoughts, news articles, and photos about the places I've lived (or hope to someday live), while I move forward in my migration.