Local reporting: “Have you heard about the Lindbergh kidnapping”?

There’s an old newsroom saying “Have you heard about the Lindberg kidnapping,” referring to reporting stale news for your readers. It occurs a lot around here.

Here’s an example: On Feb. 28 this blog reported: Weaver Auto owes $641,591 in delinquent taxes, according to the state board of equalization.

Then on April 15, The Union weighs in: “Weaver Truck and Auto Center in Grass Valley, which closed in 2008, owes various government agencies nearly $700,000 in delinquent taxes, fees and penalties, records show. For details, read Monday’s edition of The Union.”

The internet is changing the way we communicate in small towns.

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.

23 thoughts on “Local reporting: “Have you heard about the Lindbergh kidnapping”?”

  1. So what else can we expect from our local rag? Where quality is concerned , even for small local dailies, a once fairly respectable newspaper has become a real bottom feeder. Guess when no current Tea Party Patriots have any news to report, or the Mecklers any editorials to promote, “newspaper men and women” there think the shaft given Grass Valley tax payers in the Weaver deal is not worthy of investigative reporting (if indeed there is anyone left capable of such a task). Or is this all something electeds and business leaders in Grass Valley prefer to just forget, since Weaver wasn’t the only one who zigged when he should have zagged?

    And how about those stop signs close together with the little blinking red lights, whose electrical bill is paid from city revenues, built to accomodate all those customers of Weavers and Hills Flat and the sales tax Grass Valley hoped would be generated (and is not) from this misadventure? Where is the traffic signal promised there supposedly funded by Weavers? What is to become of the expensive white elephant sitting on a hill above Idaho/Maryland? No wonder the city is broke.

  2. Jeff: You are absolutely right. Another example is the county was found to have willfully destroyed relevant evidence (the server used by the Florida company) in the Diaz case, but nobody except me, KNCO, and Russ Steele are reporting on it.

    Russ even posted the depositions of county officials along with the sanctioning order. A newspaper just does not have the space for that.

    The internet is definitely changing the way we communicate in this small town.

  3. Barry,
    It is changing how we communicate.
    They’ve botched this story from the “get go,” including (I might add) not mentioning your role in the lawsuit when it was first reported. At the time you were running for clerk-recorder against Greg Diaz. The Union will eventually get around to it, once the Home Show is over, I suspect. I hope they get some comment from the county, outside lawyer and Greg Diaz’ office, however. You have to be careful not to politicize the story. Let the public decide.

  4. “You have to be careful not to politicize the story.” You are kidding, right? This story has been politicized by every one from the get-go.

    My goal in 2010 was not as much to win an election as to make sure the public knew the kind of serious misconduct in which Diaz and the county was engaged, and I think that is becoming extraordinarily clear now.

    The question people keep asking me is whether I am upset that this damning evidence about the county’s and Diaz’s misconduct was not disclosed before the election, and my answer is, this kind of thing is way bigger than any one election. I am just glad the truth is coming out.

    1. Barry,
      You must be joking right? You ran a highly partisan political campaign from the get-go. Your family’s employer – our Congressman – stated publicly that it was time to get rid of the “left wing” clerk recorder at a tea party rally attended by most of the supervisors. You went so far as to question the professionalism of your opponent’s daughter in a campaign email. This post has been politicalized for years by the hard right, going back to the Fran Freedle days.

      Let’s let the case run its course. And I wouldn’t be too quick to point fingers either: This deal was approved unanimously by a conservative board of supervisors.

      1. Barry,
        I noticed you’ve been using some pretty heavy language in this case: “lies” here and “corruption” on Russ’ site. My lawyerly advice is that you can the emotions and let the case run its course.

  5. Jeff and Barry,
    Shouldn’t the broader question be why is the County Clerk a political office in the first place? This whole affair seems like a great reason to make the County Clerk and appointee of the Board of Supervisors, and then they can be held responsible by the voters, just like they are for a number of other County government departments.


  6. Tony,
    The community will hold the supervisors accountable because they approved the deal. This is a county IT issue as much as it is a clerk-recorder’s issue as well.

    1. The entire county should be held responsible. It started with Diaz…plain and simple. Then the wheels came off the wagon, and the mess spread to IT, BOS, county counsel. It is a systemic problem – but it all started when Diaz signed the approval to give the Florida company unfettered access to AtPac software two weeks before the BOS approved the contract.

      I compiled a timeline based upon deposition testimony and public records.


      1. Barry,
        No, it started with the supervisors, when they approved the deal. That’s how the system works.
        Instead of pointing the finger at your former political foe, let’s let the case run its course.

      2. Jeff: I suspect that you are trying to point the finger at the BOS in an effort to make the BOS “purple.” You are letting your politics cloud your judgment.

        Diaz approved the Atpac software access on October 31…and hid it from the BOS who did not approve the deal until November 18. He also hid the fact that the Florida company already had access to Atpac’s software when he assured the BOS a few months that they would not be allowing such access and induced them into signing an indemnification agreement under such false pretenses.

        Read the depositions. It is not emotion..it is fact. This thing ran its course when the County destroyed evidence.

      3. Barry,
        You’re letting your own political and personal bias (and apparent anger) cloud the way you are interpreting the events and throwing around inflammatory, and I would argue defamatory, terms like “corrupt” and “lie.” Let the case — which focuses on a specific issue, intellectual property rights — run its course. Let’s wait for the Diaz deposition, among others. Let’s wait for the full explanation by county management.

        And yes, Barry the supervisors are accountable for their vote on this deal. (It’s how our local government works). And yes, the county is “purple” politically. No doubt about it. All you have to do is study the precinct results from recent races, an old saw to be sure. And yes, I’m a political moderate — always have been. I’ve voted for “R’s” and “D’s” over the years. In fact, I’m sort of surprised how this old stuff is suddenly surfacing again. I was enjoying such a glorious afternoon. Now let’s move on to the evening.

      4. And here’s a result of trying to have a constructive conversation with the hard right radicals in our community:
        They will throw mud at you from any direction, apparently hoping that something sticks. In this case, the Rood Center lawyers should be paying close attention to “libel per se” phrases like this: “Local blogs . . . have been following, the on going corruption in the Clerk Recorders Office at the County Rood Center.” When will the community take note?

      5. “Libel per se”? Not even close.

        Further, the lawyers in the Rood Center can’t litigate themselves out of a cardboard box.

        I think Russ is safe! LOL.

    2. Barry,
      Weren’t you the same “lawyer” who argued vehemently that CABPRO was a 501(c)3/nonprofit? (When they weren’t). LOL.

  7. Tony: That question inevitably leads to the next question…why are any of the professional offices within the county (aside from the BOS) elected offices? I think that they all should be elected…the people should have more direct contact with their elected officials – not less. Just my opinion though.

    But if you are suggesting that the elections function of the Clerk-Recorder be appointed, that may make sense, but it depends on how it is done. I have seen some counties in other jurisdictions which have a Board of Elections. SF has a Department of Elections.

    I would suggest that maybe two elections officials – one from both major parties who would run the elections – be appointed by the BOS as part-time positions. Ultimately the elected officials would be accountable and potentially we would have less partisanship in the office. It works in other places.

    I am just throwing that out there as a discussion point. I have not done any research, but I would love to hear others’ thoughts on this and other ideas.

    1. Barry:
      I know when I get to the downlist postions, particularly those involving technical skills, my vote is not well-informed, and frankly this bothers me (quick, ask the average voter what the difference is between the State Treasurer, and State Controller). I would prefer to defer (and hold accountable) to those like the Supervisors who I vote for because they have a general match with my view of government. Because they have my view (or at least the majority of the voters view), and the time to vet professional qualifications, I think they would do a better job selecting the various County officials than I do.

      Nevada County also has another problem, which is the proliferation of school boards, park districts, cemetery boards, etc., all of which are “elective” but in fact most of which do not attract any candidates, with the result that the insiders end up slipping their friends, families, and colleagues into office through a procedure I certainly do not understand. This is what happened in most of our schoold districts last election (there was a story about problem here on Jeff’s blog).

      As for contact between the people and their elected officials, the best way to do this would be perhaps to reduce the number of postions, and then pay the few that are there a full-time salary.

      A final problem is with the nature of elections. In a democratic system, the tendency is to run on a platform of the “other guy is mean and venal, but not I.” You probably know more about the downfalls of this than I do! There is certainly a place for elections, but there is also a place for appointive positions who serve at the pleasure of the Board of Supervisors, as well as those with some type of civil service protections.

      I like your idea about having part-timers appointed by the supervisors (or perhaps a panel of judges) supervise the elections. There could be one D, one R, and one for the rest of us!


  8. Barry, you think that Russ is “safe?” Didn’t you think that you’d win too?

    Maybe you’re not the guy who Russ needs covering his back.

    How’d those documents get in Russes hands anyhow?

    Nuff said…

  9. Looks like The Union newspaper is covering for Weaver Auto.

    On Friday The Union (online) posted a short story about all the tax money Weaver owes and said “see Mondays addition for the full story”.

    A number of people posted comments under the lead in story… some comments provided some VERY interesting insights in what Weaver Auto has been up to.

    Now the lead in story and all the interesting comments have been pulled down by The Union. Looks like THe Union is covering for Weaver.

      1. Steve,
        You’re right that the story is gone, whatever the motives. It’s vanished without any explanation.
        Not even searchable on The Union’s website but still archived on Google:

        “Invalid Article
        This is an invalid article or has been removed from our site.”

        When will web publishers understand that you can’t just hit the delete button of a story: It gets picked up by the search engines and is archived. Duh.

        This is unacceptable journalism. There should at least be an explanation.

  10. Now a new version of the story has reappeared on Weaver Auto, with the comments from the old version apparently transfered over:

    The URL for the original one still exists in a Google Search, but without a story or comments:

    ““Invalid Article
    This is an invalid article or has been removed from our site.”

    There should have been an explanation for this on the new story: “The comments from the old version of this story were transfered over, so readers could continue the discussion.”

    One risk of changing the URL and moving comments over from another version without explanation: readers do not know which version they are commenting on.

    Always better to communicate.

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