Journalistic conflict on the gold mine coverage?

I noticed the editor/publisher of The Union wrote a column today supporting the reopening of the Idaho-Maryland mine. Fine: It’s what publishers do, promote business, (though some local businesses are still undecided about the mine).

But the editor/publisher also directs the paper’s news coverage nowadays, which included two other recent front page stories in support of the mine: Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote this weekend: “The local paper seems to be gung-ho for the mine to reopen — both in its editorials and on the news pages.

I was surprised to see an article above the fold on Feb. 4 (with no byline) about an alleged vandalism incident way back in May 2006. The headline read ‘Grass Valley Mine Shaft vandalized.’ It was not breaking news. It should have been promoted in a less prominent place.

Then on Saturday, the lead news item is ‘Mine touts investments as gold hits a grand.’ It suggested that the mine would fetch $5 billion on the open market.

But that’s misleading: Gold price fluctuate wildly, the city would see no sales tax from that, and sales from the ceramic tile plant are highly unpredictable.

I’m glad the article raised some of these issues, but I wondered about the article’s positioning on the front page — as with the earlier one. ”

(end of excerpt)

This is *not* a simple growth vs. “no-growther” issue. A lot of *business* people here are on the fence about the mine, including developers, high-tech executives and the board of the Economic Resource Council (of which I have been a member). Most are waiting for more information.

The environmental report is not even approved, the air pollution could impact other projects such as the Loma Rica housing development, and the vibrations could impact high-tech firms.

Others worry that Emgold has no experience opening or running a mine; its stock trades at pennies per share.

There’s a lot of complex issues at play here. It’s not like opposing the no-growth initiatives last year, which was a “no brainer” for businesses and many people for that matter.

Even the ERC’s draft economic development report does not mention reopening a gold mine as part of its strategy. It focuses on attracting “green” business and technology.

“It is indeed what got you here…..a 19th century mindset,” Steve Frisch, president of the Sierra Business Council, wrote at the bottom of today’s column. “The mine is another ‘silver bullet’ instead of a real economic development strategy.”

The news pages and the opinion pages have separate missions. Otherwise, people will lose trust in the information they are receiving.

I’m a pragmatist, too. When it comes to reopening the Idaho-Maryland mine, there’s a pragmatic mission to avoiding a journalistic conflict or the perception of one (a la the Bruce Conklin affair):

People who get information that is not colored by bias or opinion might be more inclined to get off the fence and support the project — rather than recoil and think they are being bamboozled.

We have a lot of “conspiracy theorists” around here, some of whom think the paper is a lapdog for any business. We need to prove them wrong.

In the meantime, it it matters, gold has retreated for a second straight session in trading today.

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 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.

One thought on “Journalistic conflict on the gold mine coverage?”

  1. Thanks for dealing with this issue in a forthright and honest manner. I was appalled at seeing that vandalism article on the front page above the fold, as if it were news.

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