How our community is perceived: economic development is at stake

535246-mIt is unfortunate how our community gets portrayed in the media, but sometimes the behavior is unimaginable.

“In 2003, a murder for hire case stemming from a neighbors’ dispute in Lake of the Pines shocked the entire county,” as The Union is reporting this weekend.

The “Fear Thy Neighbor” episode — a western Nevada County property rights dispute — airs on a television network called Investigation Discovery, featuring documentary-style programming dealing with true crime subjects, including criminal investigations (primarily homicides). About 84,289,000 American households (73% of households with television) receive Investigation Discovery, according to this report.

I went and found the video clip: “An elite California Lakeside Community is rocked to its core when two well-to-do gentlemen go to war over an 18-inch property line discrepancy. One neighbor takes the dispute to new levels when he hires a hitman to permanently solve the problem.”

You can watch it here. Click on “two-minute preview.”

But it’s not just the Investigation Discovery network — it’s our own local media.

Mug shots on parade

Also this morning, Charles Durrett of McCamant & Durrett Architects, The Cohousing Company, makes a point that I hear more often about our local media: It is too obsessed with crime reporting.

In “Enough Policing, Crime Coverage,” Durrett writes: “A bloated, sometimes idling police force, combined with sometimes idling teenagers, always seems to equal a run-in of one type or another.

“And The Union makes matters worse — much worse — by putting peoples’ mug shots on the front page. They rely too much on police reports for their copy and should see a bigger role in our community than that.”

As a lifelong journalist, I know “the cop shop” is important. On the other hand, it is largely reactive reporting and often lacks needed context or in-depth reporting. When I read online, I’m often surprised at the lineup of mugshots in the “slideshow” promoted on the front. It lacks context.

The media needs to think more seriously about whether it is accurately reflecting the activities in our community. It needs to “dig deeper.”

To be sure, community members also need to share responsibility, with a “murder for hire” case being the most extreme.

Other examples include racially charged emails from the fire district, aired on Sacramento CBS 13, or the “Negro Creek” episode, discussed in the L.A. Times in “Nevada County’s tale of two ‘N-words.'”

The extremist politics in our community also fuels how we are perceived. Nowadays it comes from the hard right — a vocal but active minority.

I was concerned to see tea party activists encouraging their members to pressure the local media to publish their views in letters to the editor as a political strategy. A little goes a long way, yet I heard Stan Meckler state: “You’ve got to kick them sometimes, but they will publish it.” How disrespectful and manipulative.

The unintended consequences of many individual actions can impact our economic development: whether businesses want to move here, whether people want to visit and whether families want to move here.

We are a declining, aging population and our community leaders — civic, business and “electeds” —need to get a better grip on how our community is perceived.





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 “How our community is perceived: economic development is at stake”

  1. I totally agree with you on Stan’s choice of phrasing for encouraging the Union to publish letters from Tea Party members. I also agree that our media needs to find more positive and upbeat happenings to report. We that live here know there are a plethora of great entertainment and fundraising and news worthy items that occur daily. I disagree that by not reporting the mug shots and crimes we aren’t glossing over what Nevada County has become. We have degenerated into a mecca for transients, street signed beggars, going or coming rehab visitors, the wayward, the homeless.. AND they bring with them these problems we see today. I say thank you to the Union for publishing Letters to the Editor, for trying to report on positive events in the community and, for reporting the ever increasing crime that is directly connected to whom this community attracts.

    1. How about publishing what is being done about any of the “police blotter” issues in the Union? How about replacing the “blotter” with just that— a “what were doing to make it better” column. A more pro active approach, that seems to elude the Union on so many, many issues——— perhaps?

      1. Excellent point Chip: some proactive rather than reactive reporting. BTW, readers may want to welcome C.J. Bryant, the treasurer (interim) of the County Tea Party chapter.

  2. CJ,
    Are you kidding about the mecca for transients, street sign beggars, and homeless? First time homelessness is skyrocketing across the nation from the irresponsible banking induced depression. A majority of the homeless in our county are from our county and many of those grew up in NC. I don’t know if you have volunteered at all with the number of groups/ organizations that are here to help those in need but suspect you haven’t by your comment. Please do and you will forever have a different perspective of the homeless. Some homeless have drug/ alcohol problems but many don’t. Some homeless have mental issues but most don’t. I suggest you might try some good old fashion teachings from Jesus to guide your way.

    Luke 14:13-14
    “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

    Proverbs 19:17
    “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”

    1. I think we need to rethink what these scriptures mean. They don’t mean that simply giving money to pan handlers gets you a place in heaven. Jesus and Solomon weren’t so ill informed. Handing out unearned resources without requiring effort encourages further panhandling and sends the message that the recipients are helpless and deserve pity. The truth is that the vast majority of these people have the potential to become assets in our community if given a genuine opportunity. I can say this with some authority as the director of CoLiving Network because we arrange completely drug free housing for the homeless, drug addicted, offenders and mentally ill, and guide them to pay the rent and do the work to put their lives in order, and it works exceptionally well. We have five locations in the county and receive no help from the government, being mostly supported by our clients. It is critical that they start paying their own way in life in order to succeed. Our phone rings off of the hook with desperate people wanting to get in and if we had more help we would have many more of these homes, and eventually we will. Stop giving to panhandlers and allowing illegal dangerous camping, and help us establish more CoLiving Homes and to give them to a place where they can gain back their dignity and not be a drain on society. Every homeless person you see costs the government an aerate of $40,000 a year in related costs, and that is not counting the losses from crime and fire damage.

      1. Greg,
        Who said anything anything close to

        “They don’t mean that simply giving money to pan handlers gets you a place in heaven.”


        “They don’t mean that simply giving money to pan handlers gets you a place in heaven.”

        Basically what you went on to say is what I was saying. We are talking about fellow human beings that have needs and to call them transients with a derogatory tone doesn’t help move them closer to getting off the corner. I applaud what you are doing but much like Hospitality House their is only so much your small but very important organization can do to help an ever increasing local homeless population. Some will never re enter into what we call society(job, rent/ mortgage, car, stuff), I would question if that is a healthy model of a society but that is a different issue. Some people are so far gone they will never re enter, does that mean they are no longer human and deserve our help where we can offer it? It doesn’t mean they will take the help but it does measure the character of our “society” community if we can discard human beings because they don’t fit what we feel is productive. That is why I really like Divine Spark because they just offer help without any preconceived expectations. Some people are just not emotionally, mentally, or physically ready to clean up or even be able to hold a conversation with a relative stranger. There are so many different reasons people fall through the cracks to pretend there is one correct answer is ludicrous. Pick your level and jump into it with what ever help you can offer. Yours is organizing housing for those ready, which is awesome but for your 5 houses there are 100 in need of a home.

        An increase of homelessness and extreme hard times has been increasing for decades. We are in the middle of a very failed economic system that continues to allow all economic gains to go the wealthiest among us. 95% since 2008 of economic gains has gone to the top 1% in our country and that number is in the 85% range for a 34 year span. Since 1980 workers wages have increased 10% when adjusted for inflation but the average cost of living has skyrocketed.

        I really like the reports coming out of Utah.
        Greg keep up the good work.

      2. oops that second quote should read
        “Handing out unearned resources without requiring effort encourages further panhandling and sends the message that the recipients are helpless and deserve pity.”

      3. Re: Salt Lake City, – big article in Sunday’s SF Chronicle on Salt Lake City homeless.
        They build complexes for the homeless away from the usual homeless hangouts with counselors on the staff. They get simple pine furniture, easy chair, and TV.
        Big buy-in by Mormon and other churches.

  3. Thanks Jeff for the intro – that is Cj Bryant, Nevada County Tea Party, Treasurer. It feels great to have a forum in which we can all agree to disagree, if necessary. We appreciate the opportunity.

  4. Ben, I am a regular reader of this blog, but have never been moved to comment until now, having just read your post. I agree with all you have said. The causes of homelessness and the horrible consequences of it are complex, and it is all too easy for others to rant about it from the comforts of their living rooms. You speak from a place of human decency and compassion, and our community needs more of that. I found the Grand Jury report a very shallow piece that will accomplish nothing other than to create more hostility against the most vulnerable members of our community. Homelessness is a national problem, with roots and consequences that are far deeper than those glossed over in the grand jury findings.

    1. Welcome Fran. Thanks for your comment. I would like to more know about who pens the Grand Jury reports. We need some more transparency. Is it possible that some of the Grand Jury members have an ax to grind, whether it’s about homelessness or the Elections Office. You bet!

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