When San Luis Obispo started seeing an increase in protests following the death of George Floyd in May, readers asked me questions about one of CalCoastNews’ reporters Josh Friedman. People asked me because he’s appeared at several local protests, recording video and live streams on YouTube.
Recently, Friedman made headlines on his website when they said he was “battered” by supporters of 20-year-old Black protest organizer Tianna Arata. Despite CalCoastNews claiming he was a victim of battery, Friedman did not file a police report. In fact, after Friedman was called out by Arata supporter Cavin Stokes for his “fake news” and got into a heated physical altercation with protesters, Friedman stayed for more than two hours.
Three protesters attending the event recalled to me that Friedman charged into their huddle, reportedly pressing his phone against their faces.
According to his biography on the website MuckRack.com, Friedman describes himself as a “globetrotting journalist” who covers geopolitics and news in San Luis Obispo County. Friedman writes that he learned investigative reporting as an intern under the tutelage of CalCoastNews co-founder Karen Velie. He moved to Sofia, Bulgaria in 2014 to cover news in “several dozen countries,” with a focus on the Balkans and Eastern Europe. He eventually returned to the Central Coast to continue reporting for CalCoastNews.
In 2012, Friedman launched the website FreeSLO.com, which was a libertarian blog that he ran with editor and Atascadero resident Gary Kirkland and someone identifying themselves as “Kim M.”
FreeSLO.com touted a number of conspiracy theories. For instance, Friedman promoted a conspiracy theory peddled by far right-wing groups like the John Birch Society that alleges the United Nations is involved in a scheme with elected officials to impose worldwide dictatorship (“Agenda 21”). CalCoastNews would later publish a number of articles and op-eds alleging that local officials in SLO County were involved in that…