Buried on The Union’s website is an enlightening feature, “The Union publishers through the years.”
You cannot understand the politics of our small town unless you understand the past — and it is entwined in the leadership of the closely held local newspaper (with waning influence in the Facebook era).
Unless you’ve lived here for generations, understanding the small-town political landscape is a laborious exercise, but this post offers some shortcuts — call it “Grass Valley politics for dummies,” AKA people who have moved here within the past 10 years or less.
We are reminded, for example, that the newspaper was once owned by the Ingram family of Grass Valley (as in Patty Ingram-Spencer, the past chair of the Grass Valley/Nevada County Chamber board and longtime Grass Valley Council member. Ingram-Spencer is still on the city planning commission. Her husband is former board of supervisors member John Spencer, who represented Grass Valley).
Both are staunch conservatives and have been active in local politics for years. John has been a board member of CABPRO. John was longtime friends with a hard-right conservative and property-rights advocate Drew Bedwell, a controversial supervisor during NH2020. Hard right blogger and Former Union Columnist George Rebane (you can read his recent post, “Boy Scouts and Homosexuality” here), was once Bedwell’s planning commissioner.
The Grass Valley Chamber — with Patty Ingram-Spencer as its chair — also recently entertained and initiated the management changes discussed about a week ago: “New” Grass Valley Chamber; really just the “old guard” GV political machine?”
Since 1968, The Union has been owned by “Nevada County Publishing Company,” AKA Swift Communications out of Nevada, though an Ingram family member remained editor for years.
“(William) Prisk’s long tenure ended in 1946 when Robert T. Ingram and Earl Caddy, longtime staffers, bought out his interest. They retained control until 1968 when the Nevada County Publishing Company bought The Union. Ingram’s son, R. Peter, remained as editor and publisher for seven years.”
More recently, Jeff Ackerman was The Union’s publisher, for a full decade.
For long-timers, the pièce de résistance was the saga of Bruce Conklin, the supervisor whom The Union went after like a pit bull in 2004. “Did he trade journalistic integrity to engineer a Board of Supervisors more to his political liking?” as Nevada City resident Jim Hurley wrote at the time. Ackerman was closely aligned with the “old guard.”
Here’s all that is said of Ackerman in “The Union’s Publishers through the years”: “Mr. Starren was succeeded at The Union by the then-current T-CAN publisher, Jeff Ackerman, who served until July of 2012.” About eight words. Ackerman has been transferred to Swift’s Roseburg, Ore., newspaper.
The last line points to the tenure of “Mr. Dave Schmall,” summing up some of his experience. The General Manager of the Nevada County Publishing is Mark Raymond, who is based in Swift’s offices in Nevada. Ackerman previously held that title.
What the future holds for The Union remains an open question — a “paywall” amid more competition, an aging readership, as well as increased internet and social media readership. Whether the newspaper can remain influential in local politics, as it has in the past, also remains to be seen.
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