It’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?
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)