The Union has long been a lapdog for our community, promoting the “old boys” network. Keeping the western county small and insular has benefitted the newspaper and the “old boys,” because they can control the message and, in their minds, influence local policymaking. It’s a selfish strategy. The internet is changing this, however.
Worse is when The Union tries to be a “watchdog.” It often just doesn’t have the “journalistic chops.” Instead, it falls back on the “don’t argue with people who buy ink by the barrel” mantra, increasingly irrelevant nowadays amid new competition.
Nowhere is this more apparent than with The Union’s weekly columnist George Boardman, who epitomizes a small-town journalist “shooting blanks.” He’s become a running joke in some circles around town because like Former Union Columnists such as Russ Steele and George Rebane (known to some locals as the “FUCs”), he’s not interested in the truth, just an ideology. (“Dumb bureaucrats” is one of Boardman’s favorite themes).
These “bureaucrats,” by the way, increasingly are asking to meet with The Union’s management to express their displeasure with the newspaper’s ignorant reporting.
For whatever reason, The Union’s “stock-in-trade” has become turning its pages over to the uninformed like Boardman, telling the rest of us “what we think we should know.” It’s why The Union’s demographics match its readers — aging and declining. George isn’t just a weekly columnist, either. He’s been a member of “The Union’s advisory board,” supposedly a brain trust for information.
Boardman’s blog this morning (promoted in this mornings print pages of The Union) is a case in point. It is titled “Bureaucrats will tell you what they think you should know” and manages to insult a whole slew of them — but without informing us. Memo to Publisher Jim Hemig: What’s the ROI on Boardman?
Insults our clerk-recorder with a “Where’s Waldo” reference
George takes aim at:
•High-school district Superintendent Louise Johnson
•High-school trustee Richard Baker
•Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz, whom he insulted with a caption, “Where’s Waldo.”
When it comes to the schools, George is upset that the Superintendent or Trustees won’t discuss personnel issues, though it happens to be the law. The Union lost an FOI lawsuit in a related case, costing the district $17,000 to defend.
In this instance, the handwriting is on the wall at the school district, but The Union just doesn’t like the answer. The district is struggling with issues such as longterm accreditation and declining enrollment, and it is changing management to achieve that — just like all businesses do, including The Union. Duh.
In the issue of the clerk-recorder’s office, Boardman would have been better off to just publish Diaz’ statement regarding a delay in mailing of ballots because of a printing error. It would have been more informative. The Union also has a habit of “interpreting” and getting it wrong.
Boardman also is incorrect in alleging a lack of transparency in this issue. I know this firsthand: I had the same brief discussion with the assistant-clerk recorder and got all my questions answered, including the name of the printer.
Write about the El Dorado County supe who’s on trial
Instead, Boardman ought to be picking on a “bureaucrat” such as El Dorado County Supervisor Ray Nutting, a property rights advocate and tea-party hero who also happens to be on trial for felony charges. A jury is deliberating his fate this week. Nutting faces four felony counts stemming from roughly $70,000 in state grants he was awarded to clear brush on his private property.
“The prosecution of the veteran timber rancher, a stout defender of private property rights and a hero to tea party conservatives, is revealing angry divisions within the local Republican Party faithful and deep-rooted antagonisms in a county long known for its bare-knuckled politics,” as the Bee has reported.
For its part, The Union is at a crossroads and struggling to find the talent it needs to grow its business in the age of the internet.