A Trinity University television program documenting the state of homelessness in San Antonio was pulled from YouTube at midnight February 6. The segment's producer, Trinity student Josh Nowitz, voluntarily removed the program, part one in a three-part series, after a City employee who appeared in the documentary said she had consented to appear only in the television broadcast, which aired on Trinity's TigerTV Friday, February 1. Janice Wehrman, social-services manager for the City's Department of Community Initiatives, appears briefly in the segment discussing the size of the San Antonio homeless population.
"I'm curious why you're calling to find out," Wehrman retorted, when the Current asked why she requested the clip be removed from YouTube. "I'm not refusing to talk to you,"she added, "it's just my directive" to send press inquiries to the PR department.
Happily, not PR but Assistant Director for Community Initiatives Melody Woosley called back to say that "There's not an issue with the content," but merely a concern that YouTube videos can be "downloaded, edited, and put back up." Wehrman thought the program would only be airing on TrinityTV, said Woosley.
But according to Nowitz, Wehrman didn't inquire about the program until she was already sitting for the interview. Nowitz says he "may have neglected" to tell Wehrman that the program would also be posted to YouTube when she asked what the interview was for. Although Nowitz says the consensus of Trinity Department of Communication staff was that Wehrman had no legal grounds to demand the clip be pulled from the video-sharing site, he agreed to remove it.
"My understanding is that the reporter didn't get permission to distribute it on the internet," said TigerTV advisor and Trinity staff James Bynum. "It's our policy to totally tell them the distribution methods," he added. "We normally put all of our shows on the internet, so that's what he should have told her." Bynum says the department doesn't recognize a difference between public officials and private individuals, or between news and non-news in this regard.
Navarra Williams, president and CEO of SAMM Ministries, which coordinated the local volunteers for last Thursday's annual Point in Time homeless head count -- featured in the segment -- said he did not know why the City wanted the clip removed from YouTube. Although an anonymous source says Williams was copied on Wehrman's original email, Williams says he has not spoken with the City about their objection. At the very end of the segment, during the Point in Time head count, the volunteers Nowitz is accompanying come upon a vacant building that has been forcibly opened by people who were using it as a temporary shelter. After a few minutes of looking around, they realize that it's one of the buildings slated for the Haven for Hope social-services campus under construction on the near West Side.
Wehrman also appears in the second and third episodes of the series, says Nowitz, but his understanding is that she does not object to those segments airing on TigerTV. Check the CurBlog for the schedule for those shows.
TigerTV programs are archived as space allows on the station's website, and Nowitz says, "it's up for discussion right now" whether the homelessness programs featuring Wehrman will appear on the site. Bynum thinks they might: "She just asked it be removed from YouTube is my understanding." Unfortunately, the site is still looking for solutions that will allow it to support more archived programming.