Memo to The Union: Dump George Boardman for a more thoughtful columnist

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsIt’s been less than two months since George Boardman was brought on as a weekly columnist for The Union. God knows I warned people: He’s a Jeff Ackerman “mini-me” in style and substance and not knowledgeable or experienced enough with the issues to be a “smart-aleck” columnist.

Plus he can’t get his facts straight: On his blog he confused the Auburn and Folsom Dams and only corrected the error after it was mentioned here. Idiotic and not just a “typo.”

And while City Editor Liz Kellar came here to belittle me last week after the paper failed to execute a common professional courtesy (response: “Jeff, are you familiar with the term idée fixe?”), a lot of people in our community are “fixated” at the ongoing incompetence and lack of judgment at The Union. And it’s spreading.

The paper mistakes “free speech” for journalistic fairness and best practices, often in its packaging of “Other Voices.” It puts its citizens on the defensive, forcing them to respond, when that’s the paper’s job — to present both sides. This includes the Op-Ed page, where it can present a “point” and “counterpoint.”

Recent examples include SYRCL, the Boardwalk and the noncompliant sign on Hwy. 49.It’s pissed off legions of hard-working people in our community. Don’t take my word for it: Just hop onto Facebook and social media, which has become the de facto voice of our community — with signed comments, not “trolls.” The Union has become more of a glorified HOA newsletter for an aging, declining demographic.

I’ve heard loud complaints from people at the Rood Center, the Economic Resource Council, nonprofits and other institutions about Boardman’s columns in recent months. The issue is not expressing an opinion; it is that he isn’t well informed and doesn’t bother to educate himself — even on simple issues that could be researched, from federal PILT payments to the government’s role in job creation versus the private sector’s.

NOW ATTACKING SCHOOL BOARD

Now George has attacked the Nevada Joint Union High School District School Board — without enough research. He has lifted quotes from The Union out of context. The real issue is that Boardman just didn’t like the answers.

It comes as the local tea-party is launching its own frontal assault on the schools — largely for CORE curriculum. Our schools have become the latest political punching bag for hard-right activists.

Tom McClintock likes to “agitate” groups of staunchly conservative retirees into political action in our foothill towns. We are letting extremist behavior polarize our own community, as I’ve written before. It’s ruining our culture.

“Woke up to an article in the Union impugning my judgement and professionalism,” one School Board member, who is working and raising children in our community, wrote about Boardman’s screed. “Written by a person I’ve never met and by my knowledge has never attended a meeting I’ve taken part in. It’s amazing to me how easy it is for some people to pass judgement while hiding behind the concept of free speech.”

“That’s why I don’t get the Union anymore,” one other citizen wrote. “Our own town’s paper lets crap like that get through.”

Is The Union trying to shrink its circulation further? Is it any wonder people don’t run for public office? Is Liz, Brian or the new publisher(s) even listening?

images“ME TAXPAYER, YOU BUREAUCRAT”

Whether it’s Russ Steele, George Rebane (both Former Union Columnists) or Boardman, my concern is The Union keeps turning to politically like-minded retirees, who aren’t raising families or working here, taking potshots at people who do. They throw rocks from the sidelines. And all of it has an entitled anti-government tinge: “Me taxpayer, you bureaucrat.”

In the case of the School District, The Union’s Freedom of Information lawsuit against the District surrounding the termination of the contract of Superintendent Marianne Cartan was misguided, as I’ve written before. It showed a real lack of judgment and experience about FOI issues by our local newspaper’s editorial staff – and “at will” employment, for that matter.

In today’s column Boardman writes: “High School Trustees Need Education in Communication,” siding with The Union’s perspective: “Don’t question our views and speak only when spoken to.” He even went on to cite “dysfunctional governance.”

In fact, the Board was forthcoming but some people just didn’t like the answer — from the School Board and then from the superior court judge who dismissed The Union’s lawsuit. It’s OK to be critical of “institutions,” but Boardman keeps shooting blanks.

ILL-CONCEIVED LAWSUIT COST $17K TO DEFEND

The lawsuit cost the district $17,000 to defend from its general fund — during a time of a financial crunch. Why didn’t Boardman, our self-appointed taxpayer “watchdog,” bring that up more forcefully? That’s the real issue in this matter.

I’ve heard rumors that somebody has asked the County Grand Jury to investigate this — but I would deem that politics and “sour grapes” too. It’s endless around here. (We have some perceived conflicts of interest on our Civil Grand Jury too).

As George himself notes, one school board members explained: “(Cartan) has attempted to affect many things that needed correction … She should have more time, but the board didn’t vote that way …” That pretty much sums it up, as I’ve written before. Personnel matters are protected by law.

The Union is being hypocritical too: For weeks it sat on a bombshell of a “personnel matter” of its own: about a former publisher suing a grieving father, instead of just apologizing for a column that was written in bad taste. It only wrote the story after it appeared on this blog and was generating community-wide discussion. It was pitiful journalism.

The Union showed bad judgment in bringing on Boardman and now the chickens are coming home to roost. It ought to dump him before it’s too late.

Instead, the newspaper should find somebody who lives but also works in our community and is raising a family — a multi-faceted community stakeholder. It is a perspective that is missing from The Union’s Op-Ed pages, which continues to be dominated by retired curmudgeons and political ideologues.

And it’s costing the paper badly needed credibility — a real “shoot yourself in the foot” business strategy.

(Photo of George Boardman by The Union)

About 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.
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26 Responses to Memo to The Union: Dump George Boardman for a more thoughtful columnist

  1. Judith Lowry says:

    Jeff,

    Whenever you write about some of the local old guard, hard right guys I always think of Tom Wolfe’s quote in response to Updike and Mailer criticizing his books:

    ” Why are these old bones rising up from off their palettes?”

    I suppose my bones aren’t that young either, but Tom’s wit still makes me chuckle.

  2. jeffpelline says:

    The anonymous “trolls” are coming out on this one, with their usual baldfaced lies, personal attacks and bullying behavior. No surprise there. Facebook is on fire with this story, and it originated there. With signed comments, not anonymous ones, from many prominent people in our community.

    Check it out. We’re having a community discussion about George Boardman’s column and The Union’s journalistic practices — on Facebook, with signed names (not anonymous comments). There are more than 40 of them and counting, along with Facebook “shares.”

    We also need to call out Todd Juvinall, a former county supervisor, for his practices. His blog reads “Any topic any time. No profanity. Please use your real name and email address.” Same goes with Rebane’s Ruminations. Both routinely post comments from “anonymous.” They are providing safe harbor to online “trolls” — like “Pakistan” in our local blogosphere.

  3. Chris Bishop says:

    I saw the Union column today. I’ve followed the Facebook discussion.
    When you have a Board Member who doesn’t know the CBA (contract); doesn’t know the law (Ed. Code) and seems to have a ‘dismissive attitude’ to learn, then I would hope the quote, “adults behaving badly” would include a mirror.

    Richard Baker has attended, maybe, one NJUHSD Board meeting in the last six months. To his credit, Richard has voted favorably for some very tough decisions in our school district. However, criticisms that George Boardman brings up in his column have merit.

    The NJUHSD has been run poorly at the Board, District Admin, and Site Admin for the past 7 years. The changes that have been made, needed to be made, but at what financial cost? I believe the public has been kept in the dark. All media outlets dropped the ball on this one. With all due respect, Jeff, you and I spoke of some of this, but, when much of this was really going down……you were more interested in Rush Limbaugh at that time.

    The only thing about George’s column that I have is; it’s a year or two too late. We have new administration including a new Superintendent. We are up for a new WASC review which I believe will be positive. We’ve done alot of soul searching and have made corrections that will move our schools forward. I’m afraid Common Core is going to be a needless battle.

  4. jeffpelline says:

    Chris,

    More than 40 people in our community, including many prominent ones, have objected to Boardman’s column — in style and substance — on Facebook and in social media.

    All the names are “signed,” not anonymous trolls like the ones on Rebane’s Rants and Dragon’s Breathe (sic). The criticism has been “shared” on Facebook. It’s a real conversation.

    You are making allegations here about board members that are speculative. The board voted to make many of the the changes, but you are lumping a lot of issues together in your analysis.

    As far as introspection about “adult’s behaving badly,” how about the teacher’s union, along with the rest of the folks? There’s plenty of blame to go around.

    I’ve reported on this all along, including this detail: The real measured cost of $17K from the District’s general fund to defend The Union’s FOI lawsuit, dismissed by a superior court judge. Oh, and how about the “real cost” of a personnel lawsuit to the District?

    I’ve also reported the issues you’ve brought up, ahead of the other media.

    Where’s the other side? I guess we’ll have to plunk down $2 online for another copy of The Union to find out, because it didn’t bother to provide any balance. It’s irresponsible journalism.

    I can’t imagine why anyone would want to run for the District’s school board. And as a parent, the teacher-administration relations sound like a real political snake pit.

    It’s no wonder why charter schools are exploding in our community.

    • Chris Bishop says:

      Yes, I’ve seen the Facebook response. I don’t see what trolls and other boards have to do with my post. My opinions on what has happened in the NJUHSD are far from speculative. I agree the FOI lawsuit was folly. If you have any information about bad behavior on the part of NUHSTA (teachers union), I’d love to hear it. My point is, there are alot of questions that should have been asked and weren’t.

      But Jeff, you bring up a great point that should be asked. As far as why anyone would want to run for school board, I think that is a great question. It needs to be asked. Why are our current board members on the board?

  5. jeffpelline says:

    Chris,

    Well, with all due respect, you’ve exhibited some “bad behavior” yourself this afternoon. A rather sanctimonious attitude without holding up a mirror to the NUHSTA’s role in this ruckus. It’s a multi-faceted problem, as I hope you can recognize. That’s what eats at parents who just want to send their kids to school, and often to college, without the wretched, backbiting internal politics that exist in this School District.

    As for the “trolls,” they thrive on the polarization, just like Boardman. They’re crying for attention from their “echo chamber” — all six of them, including the anonymous cowards who are provided “safe haven.”

    The current members are on the board because they were voted into office. Careful what you wish for too: Because the tea-party folks are going to shake your tree like no parent board member ever has.

    • Chris Bishop says:

      Wow!! I have?!? Sanctimonious?!? In what way?!? Again, do you have an example of NUHSTA’s role in the rukus?

      Jeff, I understand the polarization you write about and I agree with you. I understand the tea-party folk and their desires for education. I’m not really sure why you’re mad at me. Would you care to address a specific example of anything I’ve posted?

  6. jeffpelline says:

    Chris,

    I’m not mad at you. I just found your tone sanctimonious, casting stones at Board, District Admin, and Site Admin but not once reflecting on NUHSTA’s role in the matter.

    • Chris Bishop says:

      Once again Jeff, my opinions are not speculative. Casting stones? That seems to be a favorite retort. Mind you, I live in this house. For the third time, tell me what I don’t know about myself and NUHSTA’s role in the matter. And again, I think your question about ‘why be a board member’ is compelling. I think it might lead to some answers of how we got here and where we should go. Believe it or not, I think things are looking up. It will be a battle, but things seem to be moving better than in the past few years.

      • jeffpelline says:

        Gee, Chris, you stated yourself, “seems to have a ‘dismissive attitude’ to learn,” among other charges. “Seems” is a speculative term by definition. You may “live in this house,” but you also have your own bias. For the third time, I’m going to ask you to look in the mirror on behalf of the NUHSTA. I don’t think things are looking up at all: The Union runs this “crap,” to quote some folks, and you seek to defend it. As a parent, I’m disgusted at the District infighting. It’s more about the adults winning an argument than the children.

  7. jeffpelline says:

    Well, at least the anonymous “trolls” quit emailing me here, and fled to “safe haven” on the Rebane and Juvinall blogs. Boo! Scat, you coward! LOL.
    https://sierrafoothillsreport.com/2014/02/16/new-study-internet-trolls-are-often-machiavellian-sadists/

  8. jeffpelline says:

    Oh, no, now the Barry Pruett blog is going “negative” on me, warning me not to meddle on his political turf — including writing my name in a big headline, no less. LOL. He also points to the old RL Crabb cartoon that Jeff Ackerman ran in The Union, ridiculing my personal appearance.

    The background on Barry (the only candidate in recent county history to have lost a local election in every single precinct) is here:
    https://sierrafoothillsreport.com/tag/barry-pruett/
    http://yubanet.com/regional/Nevada-County-BOS-Process-1-Politics-0_printer.php

    You’d think the guy would get the message. The signed Facebook commentary continues to bash George Boardman (whom Pruett has praised) and The Union.

    Just compare the list of names critical of Boardman, with the list of names who support him. Let me give you some “sage” advice Barry: you’re just digging yet another big political hole for yourself — and the tea party. It’s getting “old,” to use your words.

  9. GregZaller says:

    I apologize, but how do I get to the Facebook discussions?

  10. jeffpelline says:

    Greg,
    No problem.
    http://www.facebook.com/azavadahey?fref=ts&ref=br_tf
    Just ask to be Facebook friends with Richard Baker if you aren’t already.
    My own Facebook page is here:
    https://www.facebook.com/jeff.pelline?fref=ts

    It’s gone viral but this is a good start. I’d encourage you to join Facebook for community news. No paywall, and you have to sign your name.

  11. Judith Lowry says:

    Not off topic here, but take heart, a dark age has passed and that generational turnover you have been heralding, signaling a new age of enlightenment, has begun.
    The era of Jay Leno is over at long last.
    Long live Jimmy Fallon!
    The kid knocked it out of the park.
    We can now return to late night television without enduring the stale banalities and lazy, witless, goomba pulp that was passed off as wit and humor during the Leno reign.
    Johnny is smiling in his heaven and this will certainly be something of a cultural game changer.
    The beauty part for us Boomers is that now, instead of staying up past our earlier bedtimes, we can catch the show in the morning with our decaffeinated coffee and our ipads.
    Sweet!

    • steve cottrell says:

      Judith:

      At the risk of drifting too far afield from the theme of this thread, I offer a brief comment.

      I’m much older than you, so for me the true glory years of the Tonight Show were 1954-62 with Steve Allen, then Jack Paar, sitting behind the desk now occupied by Jimmy Fallon. The “generational turnover” will never know what incredible wit, intelligence and humor we enjoyed during the early years of the show. Carson was good –– Allen and Paar were late-night masters. Fallon has potential.

      • Judith Lowry says:

        Steve,

        You are not so “much older” than me, kiddo.
        I remember Allen and Paar because sometimes I would sneak quiet as a mouse from my bedroom and watch from behind the living room couch.
        They were great guys.
        I remember my parents’ outrage at the breakfast table over the infamous “WC” incident (tame by today’s standards) that got Parr in so much hot water with the network.

  12. Chris Bishop, I’ve missed maybe three regular board meetings in over three years as a trustee. Including those meetings that I did bother to go to and all of the special board meetings – often multiple per month, as well as individual meetings with the Superintendent, the assistant Superintendents, Principals, assistant Principals, teachers and other staff as well as committees such as the JPA and the Curriculum committee and special events associated with the District, I have attended hundreds of hours of meetings. Oddly I don’t recall you being at many, or actually any of them. I won’t bore you with all of the hours I spend reading my board packets and web sites and news letters associated with board governance and the school budget. Get your facts straight if your going to talk shit about me online. Richard A. Baker

  13. jeffpelline says:

    Chris,
    Many thanks. And thanks for your passion for our schools. You’re a wonderful, respected chemistry teacher, and Richard is a stellar designer. Two families who are helping our community to grow and prosper. I’m proud to know both of you.

    BTW, I’ve never heard anyone apologize on the Pruett, Juvinall, Steele, Rebane or Crabb blogs. The difference is noticeable.

  14. Judith Lowry says:

    Chris, that was very gracious. Glad to see you patching things up with Richard in a gentlemanly way. I was surprised that Mr. Baker used an expletive that I hadn’t before seen on Jeff’s blog, an indication of how hurt he must have been by your comments.
    Moreover, it really caused me to reexamine the value of my own participation on the Crabb-Pelline blogs.

    I want to take this opportunity also, to apologize for any remarks I have made that may have hurt anyone, even Mr. Juvinal, to whom I have leveled some especially vitriolic responses in the past. I finally got what was bothering me out of my system with my last comments to Steve about the Nisenan struggles. It was a long time coming and I have finally expressed my concerns and frustrations specifically. It feels good to have it off my chest. The Nisenan are going to be okay now. They are safe. Time to move on.

    Reading the latest exchange between Bob and Jeff on the Crabb blog this morning was disheartening. This kind of human behavior is why there is war. Once horns are locked men find it difficult to do anything but go for total annihilation. We should be worried that kids see this kind of behavior and then think it is okay to cyber-bully their classmates into depression and suicide. I want no part of that. This is a locker/war men’s room and I suddenly feel out of place.

    It’s been a fun social experiment, commenting on the blogs. But looking back I don’t feel I have made any particularly valuable contributions except to shine a light on the one thing I know about, Native American culture, specifically in this region. That is done now. This is a game for the gentlemen commenters who are so much smarter than I am about politics, business and governmental issues.

    Besides, I have a husband who likes what I do in the kitchen, and I have some cookies to bake.

    Best wishes to all, over and out.

    • jeffpelline says:

      Thanks for you contributions Judith. I know Bob is your friend, but I have little respect for him after I supported him as a manager when the paper considered dropping his cartoon, yet he chose to publish an unflattering cartoon about me, joining in a personal vendetta with the ex-publisher (who was too much of a coward to have the same conversation with Bob about his cartoon). The cartoon that Bob drew and Jeff A. ran in The Union was a juvenile, bullying tactic using the “newspaper or record.” Today Bob chose to up the “ante” and attack my business and me (“food and cheese mag,” “creep,” “Valium,” etc.) after I remarked that he often ridiculed Nevada City but less so his home of Grass Valley. (In fact, Nevada City will not “pass on elections”; candidates are gathering signatures now). “An ‘eye for an eye'” in the exchange? Not exactly. Some people struggle with the notion of attacking the people versus attacking the issue. I have never ridiculed Bob’s personal appearance, for example (though I certainly could). Time to get back to work!

  15. jeffpelline says:

    Ackerman responded on Crabb’s blog: “Today he referred to me as a ‘coward’ because, according to him, I wouldn’t meet with you into discuss the frequency of your cartoons and he served as your champion during his stint there? I’m pretty sure we published your submissions before he arrived and long after he departed?”

    What Ackerman forgot to mention was the conversation that occurred in between the two sentences — where I met with Crabb at lunch and later recommended to Ackerman that Crabb’s cartoon still run as often as possible despite the cost-cutting environment. Then Crabb calls me a “liar” after I went to bat for him. And Ackerman, who assigned me to talk to Crabb (though he knew him better), reverts to his usual name calling. How sick.

    Swift is also culpable because it covers for Ackerman’s rants (referencing “pigs” and “Pee Line”) as one of their employees. There’s something to be said about publicly traded companies instead of private ones — accountability. The level of employee integrity at places such as Swift and big papers such as The Chronicle is miles apart. Ackerman never would have cut it in the “big leagues” — and didn’t. And except for the hard-right blogosphere, I never hear anybody in our community who misses him.

    I could tolerate Ackerman, but when he sued the grieving father for showing bad journalistic judgment himself, I lost nearly all respect for him. It was a selfish reaction to a journalistic blunder — vintage Ackerman. (This was a guy that had his dry cleaning delivered to work, ceremoniously hanging on the door of his office, in a town of only 10,000 where dry cleaning was not why people moved here).

    Crabb is merely ungrateful. It was probably humiliating to learn that his cartoon might be cut and that Jeff A’s “bean-counter” didn’t understand it. In truth, his cartoon is “inside baseball” to newcomers to town. I can accept that he has hostility toward me. I certainly did my part as a “manager.” And we both know that.

  16. jeffpelline says:

    “Let’s end it here.” Good idea Bob. You let the commentary get out of hand on your blog — again.

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