You might wonder what SFGate.com, Chevron Oil Company, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry have to do with anything such that they are lumped together in one blog post. Well, they all concern me, and in this way.
I happened upon a post by an obscure blog that the San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate.com “let me go” because I was paid to write about Chevron. The neat thing about owning your own media company is you get to set records straight. So, here goes.
First, the San Francisco Chronicle’ never hired me; I was provided a space on the newspaper’s website called SFGate.com to post blog entries. How that started is, itself, an interesting story I will tell in brief, and it began with my long-time friend from Oakland Skyline High School Class of 1980, Richard Lieberman.
The Richard Lieberman of today is a famous San Francisco Bay Area media blogger; then, in 2007, Richard wanted to get into the blogging game. So, he started with a blog I made for him called “Big Vinny” and on the Blogger.com platform. (I also helped the famous local SF Bay Area Sports Columnist Glen Dickey establish his online blog.)
And the “Big Vinny” name came from Richard’s stint as a Round Table Pizza Spokesperson. He was “Big Vinny”, and the commercial had a pretty good run, making Richard a local celebrity in the process. Richard, who was a car salesman in Oakland, was even the focus of a 2013 documentary called “Big Vinny – The Car Salesman” You’ve got to see it…
Anyway, in 2009 Richard emailed me with the news that he was going to a blogger on something callewd “SFGate City Brights”. The idea of SFGate City Brights” part of a trend then where traditional media outlets trying to increase website traffic performance formed a kind of content farm around the online musings of people – in this case, folks the San Francisco Chronicle deemed “notable”, like Richard. Bravo! I was happy for him. I, like everryone else at the time, assumed they paid him to contribute to SFGate City Brights.
So, one day, I happened to check on the list of SFGate City Brights Bloggers, and saw that the entire complement was white – not even one African American blogger in the bunch, let alone a group of us.
I sent an email to then SF Chronicle Op-Ed Page Edtor John Diaz, and wrote, “John, City Brights is great, but there’s no one black!” He agreed, and to make a long story short, invited me to join the ranks. “But,” he said “we can’t pay you.” Since I’d figured out how to make my own YouTube Playlist code to use at the top of my City Bright space, that didn’t matter: the traffic to my videos translated to about $3,000 per month for me from Google / YouTube. I just asked the SFGate folks if I could install my code, and they said “sure” – not knowing about the revenue part of the picture.
The rest is history.
I blogged from April of 2009 to November 11th of 2011, and was the top producing City Brights blogger, generating what by the measure of my traffic code was around 26 million page views by the time I was done. That was just after the November 2011 election day, when SFGate.com’s then new Executive Director Alana Nguyen took actions that resulted in me eventually being blocked from future submissions.
This gets to the “second”: Alana did so for reasons having nothing to do with Chevron.
Before, during, and after my time as a SFGate City Brights Blogger, I blogged and vlogged about the Chevron Ecuador issue. And I did so because I believed at the time, and history has proven me correct, that the truth about Ecuador and oil was being covered up under the standard idea that was driven in my head at Berkrley’s Planning School that American firms were the evil doers in any situtation involving a so-called (and I hate the term) “Third World” country.
That view masked and discouraged any look at the real situation of any individual story of economuc and workforce development in countries like Ecuador, where classism, racism, and corruption are all too common and direct. Ecuador is known for its racism, but the way the American media covers the country, you’d never know it.
In other words, I didn’t come with the standard knee jerk anti-Oil company bias. I started to look info the situation, and produced some pretty effective vlog and blog posts on Chevron Ecuador. Sadly, I managed to gain the ire of the community of people who were behind the lawsuit against Chevron and in Ecuador. I say “sadly” because I’ve met some of them in person in the past, and they’re fine people.
Unfortunately, there are some who like to invent stories whole cloth, and a set of those people blog about Chevron Ecuador to this day. So, when SFGate’s; Nguyen stopped my posting ability, they assumed it was related to Chevron, and Sam Singer, who’s a friend of mine. I got a howling laugh because Sam and I go back to the days when he was the PR guy for the San Francisco 49ers and I was writing for The Montclarion. Sam never told me or paid me to write anything a certain way about Chevron. I got a kick out of the behavior of these, I guess the term is “haters.”
It’s sad, how some are quick to say a person’s being “paid” to have an opinion whenever the content is something they don’t agree with. It’s a way of trying to shut folks like me up. I have discovered those finger-pointers often are vulnerable to having the same accusations thrown at them.
But current Energy Secretary and former Texas Governor Rick Perry was a different story, and had nothing to do with Chevron or Sam. This was all me.
In 2011 and just as he was running to be the Republican nominee for President of The United States, a number of small publications in Texas claimed that Rick Perry himself might be gay. Perry was so very anti-gay that the idea he may himself be just that and introduced in the middle of a campaign, was of interest to many. So, I blogged about this at SFGate City Brights. Under the headline “Rick Perry Gay, Stripper Sex Rumors Rise After Ron Paul Supporter’s Ad.”
When Alana became executive director of SFGate.com, she sent an email that she embargoed my post – forever, she said. Why she came to do this, she never told me. Alana just sent an email to me asking me to email he back. I called instead. She said “I know you bring a lot of traffic to us, but I can’t allow this.” I argued back and took my case up the ladder, and because the idea of SFGate City Brights was that our content was not supposed to be edited as a normal journalist’s work would be. And I’m a blogger, not a journalist. But someone got to her.
Whatever the case, I was sent an email that I was blocked from posting. For some reason, I felt liberated and so made this vlog:
And I vowed to beat the San Francisco Chronicle in Oakland media coverage! (And as a note, nothing personal against Alana, in fact, I never met her face to face, and only talked on the phone once.)
Anyway, one of Alana’s issues was that “no one else was reporting on the Rick Perry sexulaity question,” even though NY Mag had alluded to it as far back as 2004 and it resurfaced in 2011 (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2011/06/would_rumors_about_his_marriag.html). All I said in my piece was that someone should ask him about it, to give him a chance to refute the rumors. That was the idea.
Anyway, I just today happened to see a 2013 Texas Monthly article called “Former Legislator Investigates Rumors About Perry’s Sexuality.” And a search for “Rick Perry gay” on Google turns up posts from a number of publications, from Gawker in December of 2011 (after I was let go) to last year, and in the wake of Perry losing it when Texas A&M, his alma mater, elected its first openly gay student body president.
It includes mention of a guy named Robert Morrow – a guy who happened to find my Rick Perry work, would call a lot of times, though I never met him in person. He’s also a guy who pushed me to talk to a friend of his for an interview. A guy who had a different idea about who killed JFK. A guy named Roger Stone. Yes, that Roger Stone. And both Morrow and Stone are connected to President Donald Trump.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media