Fresh start (AKA my boss took my job!)

I swung by the office Saturday after a refreshing swim and found our publisher in the office with his son. He had said he wanted to meet with me. “Hey, what’s up?” I asked after he walked into my office. “We’re eliminating your position,” he responded. Oh.

Jeff A. (you know, the other Jeff) said it was purely a financial decision. He said it had nothing to do with performance; in fact, he said I had improved the paper since he hired me (despite the economic challenges we faced), and he thanked me for that. (My performance reviews said the same thing).

Jeff said he now is going to be the Editor (managing the news coverage) and the Publisher (managing the business) of The Union for economic reasons. Being a stickler for “conflicts of interest” (you know, the “watchdog” stuff we’ve written about at the paper), I expressed some skepticism that he could wear both hats. But Jeff vowed it could be done.

Jeff had been filling in as the interim advertising director for months (a more natural fit for a Publisher in my mind), but he has hired someone to fill that post who he thinks can make it a success.

It’s a very tough market and a tough job, even for a Publisher. (Jeff came up the ranks on the news side, not the business side). Jeff said he couldn’t afford both positions (Editor and the incoming Ad Director) at this time. It was painful to hear that, but I accepted it. We had a very professional conversation. We chatted, shook hands and left on good terms.

This was sad personally, because I had looked to Jeff as a business partner and friend. I trusted him implicitly too, since he encouraged our news coverage (positive and negative) and regularly suggested stories. Coverage that might be seen as negative (at least to the subjects), including investigative reporting, sometimes can ruffle feathers in a small town. But Jeff had been supportive (and often suggested topics).

Still, newspapers are undergoing rapid structural change, we’re in a deep recession and Jeff faces some tough challenges as a businessman. I hope The Union continues both its “watchdog” and “celebration” role as far as journalism goes. As a resident and homeowner with a school-aged child (AKA major stakeholder), we need both.

We have a lot to celebrate here but also some important issues that can’t be swept under the rug. (You know, the ones we’ve written about in the paper and some of my columns — meth/crime, conflicts of interest in a small town, holding elected officials accountable, transparency in public decision-making, good fiscal management, etc.)

As you know, we also celebrate the community — the “economic bright spot” bug featuring positive news was one of my ideas. I also have worked with county executive officer Rick Haffey to regularly run Other Voices from Rood Center leaders and law enforcement — explaining their outlook on things. The latest one (running this 1/18, in fact) was from the public defender.

I really didn’t want to write this because it is personal. I also like Jeff A. and “feel his pain.” But around here, rumor/misinformation fills the void of accurate information and becomes “truth” (AKA small town gossip). It can get downright nasty. I hope that changes sometime.

I’ll also be blogging here from time to time: focusing on the pragmatic local issues that our community’s true “stakeholders” worry about. We need more bloggers who want to engage in a fact-based dialogue, not political rhetoric.

My family and I wish you well and thank you for your encouraging and thoughtful words during the past 28 months — at work or around town. You’ll see us around town, including with our “red” lab puppy.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

10 thoughts on “Fresh start (AKA my boss took my job!)”

  1. Hey Jeff,

    I’m very sad to see this happen. As a consumer of The Union I think you were doing a fine job. We have noticed that The Union was losing some weight lately.

    Good luck to you and your family, Keep in touch.

  2. Jeff, I am so sorry to hear this. I have really enjoyed working with you on common interests in our community, and particularly enjoyed getting to know you, Shannon, and Mitchell on a personal level. I would love to continue that relationship. Please send me an email you would like to correspond on. Talk to you soon. Keoni

  3. Dear Jeff:

    It is truly a tough economy. I thought you did a great job at The Union and provided a much needed voice of reason in many of the community discussions the paper and others have hosted. I wish you well in your new ventures and really appreciate all that you have. and will continue to do for the community.

    Steve Frisch

  4. All the best Jeff. I agree with the above thoughts on your time at The Union. I too wish you well and really appreciate all that you have done and will continue to do for our fine community.

  5. I am sorry to hear this. With this new found freedom I am sure you will blaze a great new path. I look forward to your thoughts from your new place. All the best, Kasey.

  6. Hi Jeff, sorry to hear this for you and the paper. I thought the 2 Jeffs were a good balance. We like your blog and hope to always stay in touch with you, Shannon and Mitchell….at Tahoe too. Maybe we should share some wine soon. Christine and George

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