It’s always a joy to return from a blissful vacation and find that your community is no different than when you left a week earlier — polarized and angry, thanks in part to your community newspaper and its highly controversial editor/publisher. (I did not experience this from reading the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel the past week, a “community” paper as well).
On Saturday, The Union ran a personal, nasty editorial about former Nevada City Mayor and Council Member Reinette Senum. It was by Will Grenz of Nevada City, a vocal tea-party supporter, often with a mean streak in his communications and error-prone attacks.Will and Jeff Ackerman, The Union’s editor/publisher, share the same viewpoints on other issues in our community — political and personal. Will’s editorials run on the Op-Ed page, and he also is quoted in the articles, often without any ID that might help a reader figure out any political motives. It’s a deceptive newsroom practice.
In this case, Jeff had written a critical editorial about Reinette here on March 27 — just like Will. Reinette’s side was not presented at that time either.
Will’s weekend “other voices” made some highly charged statements, including alleging that Reinette would “manipulate the meeting agenda.” (Like all of The Union’s content, this editorial is now is behind a “pay wall,” though you can read the opinions for free on the newspaper’s mobile app).
Will also said “Senum now advocates a strike by employees of small businesses in Nevada County to create ‘economic havoc’ in the community on May 1 this year and every year thereafter.” It continued: “Note that the date is the same as the most celebrated communist event in the former Soviet Union. Is this a coincidence?”
“Economic havoc” were the exact same words used in Jeff’s editorial — but not Reinette’s words. (In the past, Jeff and Will’s communications have used similar wording as well, raising my suspicions). Is this a coincidence, or is it our county’s version of a ventriloquist Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy act (see video below)?
Will also claimed Reinette has repeatedly stated in public she “‘hates the Brown Act,’ presumably because she fears unrestricted public transparency.” It also made unsubstantiated claims about the a building that APPLE rented from the city.
The Union just ran Will’s “other voices,” without giving Reinette the chance to respond. You normally wouldn’t do that, given the highly charged nature of the allegations. It’s reckless, from the legal perspective alone.
It’s also Journalism 101 for any Editor who takes his or her role seriously. I’m pretty sure Jeff wouldn’t do this if an editorial was submitted personally attacking one of his good friends in the community.
Apparently surprised when it appeared, Reinette republished Will’s article on her Facebook page. She made corrections (such as responding that the APPLE building Will referred to was 800 square feet, not the 2,000 square feet he suggested). The Union should have fact-checked that.
Reinette’s Facebook post generated about 46 comments and many dozens of “likes.” The comments came from civic and business leaders who were upset about this, not just Reinette’s friends. A sampling is below.
Jeff’s MO for running what he calls “his” newspaper hasn’t changed much over the years, according to many locals. Some background on the well-documented Bruce Conklin case is here.
A lot of people, including myself, do not share all of Reinette’s political views. But we appreciate her contributions to the community — in helping to launch the Farmers Market, helping to come up with emergency shelters for the homeless and her “out of the box” thinking. A growing number of people I hear from and read from in social-media postings also are becoming dissatisfied with The Union’s standards.
This is a sampling of the comments:
John Regan, founding member of Sierra Fund Board:
Responding to this kind of defamation is like scraping dog poop off your shoe, Reinette – it’s an unpleasant task, but if you don’t then the stink can follow you around for days. Good for you for responding and providing some facts to counter the smears.
While I fully support publishing diverse viewpoints and opinions, The Union does its readers, the community and its own reputation a disservice when it publishes paranoid garbage in the guise of opinion. Higher standards at our sole daily newspaper would be better for everyone.
Sharon Painter, wife of Dave Painter, owner of SPD Markets:
Reinette, this is Sharon, not Dave: I was appalled by the op-ed piece in today’s paper. I think Jeff Ackerman has unleashed some kind of vendetta against you — I don’t know why.
By publishing today’s piece, right on the heels of his own, misguided editorial, he’s encouraging the rabid malcontents — basically the social TROLLS of Nevada County.
My personal rebuttal headline would be, “Why the Venom about Senum?” You have worked diligently, and at great personal sacrifice, on behalf of Nevada City.
You individually have moved this community toward sustainability and conservation of resources, you crazy Socialist, you (“May Day, May Day!!”) Frankly, there are some “childish hand gestures” I’d like to direct toward the paranoid citizen who wrote today’s column.
Steve Baker, general manager of KVMR:
Reinette, want to join me on KVMR this Monday morning to respond to this? Probably 845am-ish…contact me at 265-9073 x 211 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you can come on.
Here’s the ventriloquist act:
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