Does The Union represent the “pulse of the community” or just 29 percent of it (a continued discussion)

“Personally, I prefer to read many opinions to get the big picture,” Bonnie McGuire wrote in response to “The Union can’t grow by promoting the views of political extremists under its masthead.” “I’m glad the new publisher intends to carry on the tradition. We’ve subscribed for almost 60 years, and our parents and grandparents before us. The Union has always represented the pulse of our community and may it continue to do so for many years in the future.”

What’s missing, though, is that the community is changing, and many of the long timers (and The Union/Swift management) don’t recognize it. Bonnie is confusing the “pulse of the community” demographics with The Union subscriber demographics (in her case, three generations of subscribers).

But the two don’t go hand in hand anymore — they have diverged. In a nutshell, The Union has lost touch with “the pulse of its community.” The previous publisher of The Union has been transferred to Roseburg, Ore., where the demographics are more in line with what they used to be here. It’s a good fit with the pulse of that community.

In our county, meanwhile, political views such as George Rebane’s (“reject Obamunism” was the latest) are in the minority, not the mainstream — even among conservatives. So why are they getting such prominent play in the newspaper that is supposed to reflect “the pulse of our community”?

The recent election results of District 1 Supervisor (where a tea-party endorsed candidate Sue McGuire ran against a moderate conservative, Nate Beason, and lost handily without a runoff) are just one case in point.

First of all the longtime hard-right in our community downplay the changing voter demographics of District 1. Here’s a discussion on Rebane’s blog before the election that illustrates what I mean:

Todd Juvinal: District One is over 50% R
Russell Steele:
Not exactly, here are the numbers from the Sec of State Office.
Nevada County Supervisorial 

Total: 13,569

 Democrat – 5,008 
Republican – 5,033
 Amer Ind – 384 
Green – 342
Libertarian -118 
Peace and Fredom -26
O Other – 31
No Party Preference – 2,627
The key here is winning the No Preference vote.

Second the “preference vote” sided with the moderate, not the extreme, political view:

In the District 1 Supervisor race Nate Beason is on his way to earning a third term in office with 59 percent or 2,842 votes to Sue McGuires 29% at 1,402 votes, as KNCO reported.  Al Bulf received 9 percent at 445 votes,  and Louis Meyer who had actually withdrawn from the race but his name was still on the ballot received 84 votes. Beason, who says he received support from Republicans and Democrats thanked his many supporters.

So we’re talking about 29 percent, not 59 percent. And this is a race among two conservatives.

Before the election Rebane wrote: ”Sue McGuire has all of the qualifications to become our new supervisor,” and I’m voting for her, not Nate Beason.
-Rebane, May 30

After the election, he tried to downplay the outcome: “Dammit Todd, don’t tell ‘em [we won]. Let ‘em rest in the comfort of their fabricated world.”

Others on the losing end also back peddled.

If The Union is going to succeed, it needs to more accurately reflect the pulse of the community, not the “29 percent.” Revisiting its editorial policy and lineup of “columnists” is a good place to start.

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 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

14 thoughts on “Does The Union represent the “pulse of the community” or just 29 percent of it (a continued discussion)”

  1. It continues today with Diane West …
    West goes into the “Obama is an Apologist” tripe, that when repeated over and over by the right wing, it sounds so totally stupid. Then it’s Muslim Brotherhood along with every other dog whistle they can throw into their attack on the President. West- “Here we see Uncle Sam conceding the First Amendment to safeguard the “feelings” of Muslims, and accepting the basis of Islamic Law against criticizing Islam”.
    Romney Adviser Neil Newhouse-“Were not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers”.
    Like the mysterious owners of the local radio station, the Union is controlled by those who really want this kind of so called reporting, or it would change……………

  2. Jeff,
    Very good post, I think you’re right. The other example is Pruett- Diaz race. Clearly a Tea Party candidate vs SF/ Philadelphia transplant Diaz. I remember speaking with Greg at his fundraiser at Matteo’s and he was seriously worried about the race despite having overwhelming qualifications and experience. As you mentioned many times before Diaz won in a landslide. What you have described are very loud and aggressive bunch of conservatives that suck all the air out of the room but when you look at the numbers it really isn’t that big. Unfortunately they drown the Nate Beason’s of the party in public forums.

    1. Yes, that was another good example. “Loud and aggressive” is a generous way to describe this little battalion. Even most local conservatives shun them. These are tough times for this group, though: Poor Todd Juvinall couldn’t even hold on to his founding role as Executive Director at CABPRO. LOL!

  3. Re: Revisiting its editorial policy and lineup of “columnists” is a good place to start.

    It better start pretty darn swift if the readers who are giving the new Publisher to clean up the editorial and far right reporting before he loses them forever

  4. Frankly, I don’t give a damn about The Union’s–or any other newspaper’s–opinion pages because I don’t need anybody to tell me what to think about the issues of the day or to validate what I believe.

    I read a newspaper with the hope that it will help me make sense of the world I live in. When it’s done properly, the news pages–not the opinion pages–reflect the pulse of the community. Unfortunately, The Union is not doing a very good job of that because it has cut its reporting staff to the point where it cannot adequately cover the community it says it serves.

    I’m less interested in what the publisher is going to do about the opinion pages than what he is going to do about beefing up his anemic reporting staff. That’s the real issue that needs to be addressed.

    While we see how the real issue plays out, I’ll leave the battle for the soul of The Union’s opinion pages to you and your grim band of inquisitors.

    1. I wonder if there’s a correlation between the content (opinion and editorial, for that matter) and all the hearing aid ads? (“Hearing Loss or maybe just earwax.”) I do not see those ads in Vogue, for example. And the Fall issue of Vogue is 916 pages. Nope this is still a “turnaround,” publishing a paper that reflects the “pulse of the community,” not just 29 percent of it. The wining and personal attacks over on the hard right shows we’re onto something. They’re getting “more than their fair share.” Otherwise, they’d just ignore it.

    2. You must be the Great Carnac, divining the pulse of the community by the news stories of the latest pot bust, traffic accident, or parade. Most people who want to know more about their community seek the opinion page, because they are a little more “inquisitive”, regardless of how grim a picture you paint.

    3. Grim, heck, read a few local blogs and I think compared to many, and some currently published in The Union, Jeff’s place is more like “the happies place on earth (or county, anyway, the digital one).

    4. It seems sop now, at least in TV journalism, to never let the dominating facts of a story, control the story. Always a balancing act must be performed, so as not to offend any group and reenforce the idea that, in a sense, nothing is superior to anything else–if you get my drift. For this reason I cherish the Op-Ed writers, blasting away, saying what’s on their usually nimble minds. I feel I get more news of importance in those few pages than in the rest of the pages of whatever newspaper I happen to be reading.

    5. Hi, George!

      How are you? Someone emailed me your comments. I see not a lot has changed in Nevada County.

      You know, four out of 8 of your former reporters from circa early 2000s are now in other lines of work. Hm.

      Well, fight the good fight!


  5. Actually Jeff, it’s a matter of opinion. To each his own. Isn’t it wonderful that we can express our opinion? Even different opinions! Wow! How about you Jeff? Aren’t you part of the community “pulse?” Unfortunately, there are many elderly in our towns who don’t know how to use computers, so they don’t get a chance to read what you have to say, but they do read the Union. I’m glad it’s still here for everyone who wants to keep up with whatever’s happening locally. Yeah…I’m old fashioned and behind the times. That’s why I took a couple of Sierra College online computer classes to be able to do my own website at 80. It’s been lots of fun and I hear from people all over the world. Just Google “The McGuire’s Place” and see for yourself. As for your considering me (and mine) to be “hard right” or whatever smutty name you invent, tests say I’m a centrist. That’s because I like to see, hear and compare many viewpoints and experiences….including your blog. Doesn’t that make you happy?

    1. Bonnie,
      I think I’m going to strike a deal with the new publisher of The Union to”reverse publish” my blog into print and insert them into the newspaper! Meanwhile, keep up the good work at “McGuire’s Place” website. You look good in the Fourth of July camping chairs. Mine, believe it or not, is colored “purple.” After all our community is politically purple!

    2. I don’t see anything “smutty” here. “Hard Right” to me means an extremist as “Hard Left” would mean a left wing radical. Then there are the “Die Hard (name you sport/team here) Fans”. Am I missing something here?

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