Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Focus on The Union's publisher

Jan 20: added 'title' tag to "year of columns" link.
Misc cleanup Nov. 7,12, including new "false equivalence" quote. Also see "Engles' letter to Swift" summary post.

This post documents some of the more egregious sins over a period of more than two years. It is not a random sample, but it is characteristic. Follow the links, read the columns, read the other columns, make up your own mind.
(Here are a full year of columns)

We have a media oxymoron in Nevada County: our local newspaper The Union has grown into the Shiva of our community.

During his tenure here, The Union's publisher has written several fine - and surprising - columns - among them Listen to the SMART GROWTHERS, and a reaction to Abu Ghraib.

But still - overall, he's been a divider, not a uniter. Here are some of his other writings, and their contexts:


Let's you and he fight

During the period - Summer 2002 - when "Citizen H" (in Oct 13 post) was characterizing the state of the community (with prescience) as follows:
...symptoms of the same "diseases" are metastasizing here - something terribly wrong is happening in Nevada County - as can be seen by the bitter polarization of our community as evidenced in the pages of this newspaper.
- The Union's publisher humorously set forth guidelines for letters to the editor as follows:
...this election year has generally lacked a sense of humor. None of the candidates are particularly funny....[Keep letters short:] let's say you wanted to bash [candidate R] for her apparent inability to handle her finances. ...with some good editing, you could cut that down to "[R] wouldn't know a checkbook if it climbed up her shirt...Or...let's say you wanted to say something really mean about [candidate I]...[Your letter can be longer if it's funny;] I've been dying for a good laugh...[Candidate DB]'s black helicopter conspiracy doesn't count as funny....

June 1 2004, publisher lamented absence of civility in community *:
...it's too bad the so-called "Women In Black" anti-war protesters felt the need to protest during a recent Board of Supervisors meeting at the Rood Administrative Center that was designed to recognize our men and women in uniform.
[He also mentioned the Repub. Central Committee head's email which had led followers to threaten violence]
I bring both of these events up to illustrate how our community has been polarized by both the far right and far left**. I'm certain there are many in the middle as tired as I am of these extremists. Maybe we'll even start to hear from some of them on our Opinion pages one of these days. Voices of reason. Voices without screeches. Voices of respect and dignity. They're out there somewhere, just waiting to be heard.


...many publications prefer to correct the record via "rowback," [defined as] "a story that attempts to correct a previous story without indicating that the prior story had been in error or without taking responsibility for the error."

**False equivalence:
...false equivalence belongs in the trash heap of discredited journalistic shortcuts...In its most common form, it amounts to a reporter holding up actions on both sides as equally blameworthy, when it's clear that no such equivalence exists.


June 15 2004, publisher humorously addressed Republican Central Committee head's email inciting the 'troops (who had responded by threatening violence):
...The meeting was eventually moved after McAteer and the event organizer received several angry phone calls.

[RCC head]'s e-mail is a glaring example of all that's wrong in Nevada County today...And I blame e-mail for that.

From James Smith -
A sharp publisher in the newspaper business knows that readers care about their community and if readers know the paper cares, too, they are going to care about the paper.


Better to give

Enraged golfing readers by portraying them as wimps for not tolerating heckling (later, somewhat calmer followup column here); a reader responds, as does an employee, and another reader.


...than to receive

Did not appreciate having his newspaper dissed by Michael Moore.

Subsequently devoted an editorial to cannng Cannes for giving the nod to Moore - neglecting to mention just why a foreign film festival should merit editorial criticism from a small-town American paper like The Union.

Spent an entire column lambasting Fahrenheit 911 while announcing that he had no intention of seeing it; again, not mentioning the personal connection.

From the June 1 column. Your task: find the mention of threats of violence.
An anti-war group wanted to have a meeting at the Nevada County Superintendent's office on a Saturday to offer alternatives to military service. It was a pretty innocent-sounding thing, really. Anyone interested in attending could do so of his or her own free will.

But, after reading about the planned meeting, [RCC Head] sent an e-mail alert titled "Peacenicks" to members, warning that a "Peace Group of Anti-Americans and al Quida (misspelled) supporters are holding their rally and training at the Nevada County School Superintendent's office."

He encouraged members to contact schools' chief [TM], a Republican, to "tell him how you feel about allowing this traitorous activity to occur on Nevada County School owned property."

The event was eventually moved to a different location.

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