Our local newspaper: a glorified HOA newsletter

You can’t make this stuff up! The Union did not report what the L.A. Times, Sacramento Bee and S.F. Chronicle did on their front pages: The state Legislature on Thursday approved a sweeping and historic plan to increase the minimum wage.

Instead, it ran a press release from Assemblyman Brian Dahle on page 5 titled “Dahle votes against hike in minimum wage.” Other than giving Dahle’s view on the legislation, it didn’t give the results of the vote.

In a community of “mom and pop’s” this should have been a front-page story, complete with reaction from the small business owners in town. You know, some “gumshoe” reporting.

Looking for wisdom on the Op-Ed page? The publisher has a column his choice for the “best eligible batchelor” or “bachelorette.” Much of the namedropping heaps praise on his fellow nonprofit board members.

The newspaper also has downplayed the measles outbreak, running another press release on page 5.

Welcome to the Lido Deck of the “Love Boat.”

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 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.

39 thoughts on “Our local newspaper: a glorified HOA newsletter”

    1. The biblical casemakers for no minimum wage according to the myths contained in bible, cover to cover. How about someone should object to this group crap at link have tax exempt status pulled?

  1. I talk to dozens of business people a month, most of them running small businesses in the Sierra with less than 10 employees, and often ask about what their main concerns about doing business in the region are. Rarely if ever do I hear that minimum wage is an issue. As a matter of fact many of them can make a cogent case that increasing minimum wages would be good for their businesses by creating more disposable income in the communities that surround them.

    The reality is that minimum wages adjusted for inflation have been falling in the US for more than 40 years, dropping almost 40% in real value from 1968 to 2008. We have seen some increases since 2008 nationally, but the programmed minimum wage increases in California lagged behind even our paltry 20% inflation rate.

    John, you can cite scripture to support retarding minimum wages which I suspect may have been somewhat tongue in cheek, but actual research and facts prove minimum wage increases do not trigger inflation, help poor people, act as a powerful economic stimulus, and almost never lead to any net job loss. Supporting minimum wage increases makes one neither cruel nor ignorant, rather demonstrates compassion and economic good sense.

    I can’t cite the research that answers the question what would Jesus do or whether or not your cited opposition to minimum wage increases will lead to your ability to eventually pass through the eye of a needle, but if you believe you might consider the consequences.

  2. Imagine that. We already have enough comments from both sides for a “front page” story! Blogging is changing the way we communicate. TGIF.

  3. Steve the business folks always manage to work around such stuff: Who you should speak with are the Black youth in my area who suffer under a 40% unemployment rate and as a friend rightly pointed out yesterday, those who do manage to get an entry level spot will soon be replaced:

    1. Yes John, I have actually talked to Black people, Hispanics, people who live in actual cities from San Diego to Crescent City, people who live in the Central Valley, and people who live on the coast. Once I lived in a city…actually several cities…Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, San Diego…somehow I manage to have a life just as rich in experience as your might be 🙂

  4. I normally ignore your harping on The Union, but this time you are glaringly correct. A small town paper usually has to turn over rocks for a local story with meat. Today they have steak on a platter. To put the measles issue on page six, give Dahle a front page press release (and I like Dahle), and that screwball op-ed. The Union is losing what little credibility it has left.

    1. I normally ignore people harping on me for harping on The Union.
      I have a life of journalism experience to draw from. The Union was the littlest job I ever had.
      And my own venture is successful, expanding, a lot of fun — and I’m definitely earning more than the $60K that The Union editor job paid.
      Our community would benefit greatly from a higher quality newspaper that is locally owned (not by a chain out of Nevada), locally printed (not in Sacramento) and run by some more experienced journalists.
      Podunk is as podunk does.

      1. Hmm… so maybe this guy, with a life of journalism, and a few friends could start that paper, that most of us would look forward to reading. Start off with a weekly… via a GoFundMe site. I see it happening… Of course I’m a dreamer.

  5. A lot of people would like to see this personal blog morph into something like “Berkeleyside,”an independent news site founded in 2009 by active journalists. (Berkeleyside.com) It’s a great little community publication. Caleb Dardick is a big fan of “Berkeleyside.”

    We are now expanding our magazine outside of the area — first a deal with the Amador County wineries. There is a lot of opportunity everywhere. Moonshine Ink is doing well in the Truckee market.

    This outfit I wrote about is continuing to expand: https://sierrafoothillsreport.com/2015/10/25/is-nextdoor-local-medias-next-disruptor/. It has a lot of neighbors signing up and has been useful. Union subscribers are members. It is a time of “disruption” in the media.

    The old-timers around here are glued to The Union, but then many of them were probably glued to Microsoft before Apple came along. Not a lot of innovation around here; more protecting the status quo.

  6. The Union might as well put Todd Juvinall, “Bradley Jackson” and Barry Pruett on its masthead! Though it won’t be much of a “growth” plan. LOL.

  7. Michael R. Kesti struggles with names — mine is Jeff, not FUE. What should we call Michael? You’re right, no one cares. From Rebane’s blog:

    “I see that Steve Frisch has, in commentary on the FUE’s blog, claims that increasing the minimum wage has many advantages while being all but completely free of negative consequences and that, “Supporting minimum wage increases makes one neither cruel nor ignorant, rather demonstrates compassion and economic good sense.” If there is so much good to be accomplished with such little potential for harm, I’d like to ask Mr. Frisch why we should limit ourselves to stepping up to $15 per hour over the course of several years. Wouldn’t an immediate raise to, say, $100 per hour be even more compassionate and make even better economic sense?

    Posted by: Michael R. Kesti | 01 April 2016 at 03:37 PM”

      1. John, I don’t agree that that’s a good question, but I will answer it anyway.

        Michael Kesti’s question is actually a straw man argument; a common logical fallacy where one constructs a hypothetical as though their opponent is advancing it, then through disproving or addressing the hypothetical discrediting the original proposal.

        I am not proposing that minimum wage be increases to $100 per hour. I never did. I praised minimum wage being increased to $15 an hour.

        My case in support is based on four key points:

        1) Real minimum wage adjusted for inflation has dropped 40% over the last 50 years

        2) Dozens of economic studies done before and after minimum wage increases in the past have shown almost no net job loss resulting, almost no business failures as a result, and an increase in net economic activity after minimum wage increases. Economic analysis on a $15 minimum wage shows similar results.

        3) The approved increase to $15 at the end of the next 6 years represents a 33% increase ($5)–but at our current rate of inflation (2%) even that increase will be eroded by 14% by the end of the cycle–meaning the net increase in real wages since 1968 adjusted for inflation will still be 20% lower. (The real question should be, “is $15 enough or should it be $22 as some have proposed?”)

        4) Service sector jobs are the single largest sector in the Sierra. 60% of the jobs lost in the last recession were middle-income, while 59% of the new positions during the first four years of recovery were in low-wage industries that continue to expand such as retail, food services, cleaning and health-care support.

        I could go into a number of other reasons a minimum wage increase makes sense, and back it up with data, like the cost savings on federal benefit programs, the fact that almost all of the increase at the low end of the wage scale is reflected in new spending, etc.

        But if we are constructing “straw man” arguments I would ask Kersti the question this way: If it makes sense to jump off a wall that is 3 feet tall doesn’t it make sense to jump off a wall that is 25 feet tall?

        Do you see what a silly question that really is?

  8. One final point John, if one reads the blog where Kersti’s point originally appeared, it is pretty clear that the objection to a $15 minimum wage advanced by many there is actually not about the number it is about the fact that they oppose ANY minimum wage, believing that sans regulation the magical free market would create a ‘fair’ wage for workers. Such a unicorn populated perfectly theoretical libertarian utopia has never existed.

    1. Steve, I count myself among those who trust the market with its checks and balances rather than the power of government and those who use it to their advantage. Your points above still do not address the actual question that was asked, which was really why be so cheap if government has this power.
      However, your points are worth addressing:
      1) True, and why in the real world almost no one is working for the minimum wage. Even burger flippers start at a higher rate these days.
      2) Low income folks lose one way or the other if you raise labor costs: Some loss jobs and the rest pay higher prices.
      3) I think all you are saying here is that the very market forces that you loath will continue to drive wages higher than what the government sets. You forget that employers want to pay the least they can and the workers want to work for the most that they can. That is how the market works.
      4) Again this is true because it misses the important point about having a minimum wage: What it does is remove the opportunity for low-skilled workers to have that first opportunity. I think I pointed out here that Black young people in my neighborhood suffer under a 40% unemployment rate. In the old days a super market manager might see a young person and offer a few hours of work at a couple of bucks an hour to see if they are a good work and to get something like cart collection done at busy times. This let that young person get their foot in the door and many well-paid management people in retail got their start in just such a way. Today, it is hard to count the number of local, state and federal LAWS this manager would be violating by taking such an action to help that young person.
      That my friend is the bottom-line issue with a minimum wage and as Pastor Wilson pointed out it is there either out of ignorance or cruelty. Your choice.

      1. This is going to take a thoughtful reply which I don’t have time to do right now due to chores today. I will get back in the early evening. Have a nice day.

      2. Your points are worth addressing individually.

        Point 1) True, and why in the real world almost no one is working for the minimum wage. Even burger flippers start at a higher rate these days.
        If you look at the statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics approximately 3 million workers in the US who make at or below the federal minimum wage, which is approximately 4% of workers.


        In California the state minimum wage is $10.00 per hour. Despite that there are approximately 200,000 workers in California who make at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour due to exemptions.


        According to the Economic Policy Institute when California phased in an increase in its minimum wage from $8.00 to $10,00 per hour between 2012 and January 1, 2016 the increase directly benefited 1,616,000 workers in California who were at minimum wage and another 677,000 workers who were near minimum wage. During that same period of time unemployment in California dropped from 11% in December of 2012 to 5.5% in February of 2016.


      3. Point 2) Low income folks lose one way or the other if you raise labor costs: Some loss jobs and the rest pay higher prices.

        Continuing with the case, in the last post I pointed out that California’s unemployment rate fell from 11% in December of 2012 to 5.5% in February of 2016 despite a 20% increase in minimum wage. That should point to the fact that wage rates at the low end of the wage scale and unemployment are only loosely connected.

        Here is a statement by more than 600 economists, including 7 Nobel Prize winners wrote that minimum wage increases do not lead to reduced employment:


        In the federal discussion over minimum wage increases small business supports minimum wage increases by an overwhelming majority, even though 60% of those polled say they start workers at the minimum wage:


        Since 1938, the federal minimum wage has been increased 22 times. For more than 75 years, real GDP per capita has steadily increased, even when the minimum wage has been raised.

        Recent academic research indicates that minimum wage increases have little to no negative effect on employment as shown in independent studies from economists across the country. Academic research also has shown that higher wages sharply reduce employee turnover which can reduce employment and training costs. With that said there is considerable controversy about the issue because minimum wage increases do lead to changes in employment, but those changes are generally beneficial to workers because it leads to increased job training and skills development.


        Re: the effect of increased minimum wages on prices there is less academic research, but most of it points to little net effect, and points to the key question being “is the increase in prices equal to or less than the increase in wages.” If wages increase 10% but prices increase 4% the net benefit is greater. The question itself is biased because price increases alone are not an accurate barometer of benefit.

      4. Point 3) I think all you are saying here is that the very market forces that you loath will continue to drive wages higher than what the government sets. You forget that employers want to pay the least they can and the workers want to work for the most that they can. That is how the market works.

        First let me say that your paraphrase of what I was saying is inaccurate. I am not saying that the market will continue to drive wages higher; I am saying that exactly the opposite has been the case, that the market has undervalued labor, and that minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation over the last 40 years.

        Contrary to your interpretation of my loathing of market forces I am a fan of markets, and on record here as one over the years.

        But we do not live in a ‘free market’ economy. The US has a mixed economy, which is a combination of a free market economy and a command economy, or an economy where government regulation and incentives or disincentives help guide the production and costs of goods and services. I know there are people who would prefer to live on the unicorn ranch known as a pure free market, but we have never had a pure free market, we have adjusted the economy with taxes and tariffs and regulation since our founding. What we are is closer to a market economy than a command economy, in that people can do pretty much whatever they want to do in business, start one, fold one, invest in one through hundreds of different financial mechanisms.

        We are basically run by markets and on the whole the US is pretty much a free market economy.

        But there are elements of a command economy through mechanisms like minimum wages, child labor laws, environmental laws, health and safety laws and laws governing anti-competitive practices.

        I don’t think you should presume what I “forget.” I know that employers want to pay the least and workers want to earn the most—I have spent more than half of my life in private business—and I know how markets work and when we have market failures.

        The market failure that minimum wages are intended to address is the serial and systematic undervaluation of labor relative to productivity and the performance of the overall economy. That is evidenced in this case by the fact that until we began to address increasing minimum wages a few years ago the inflation adjusted real value of the minimum wage had dropped 40%.

      5. Point 4) Again this is true because it misses the important point about having a minimum wage: What it does is remove the opportunity for low-skilled workers to have that first opportunity.

        I actually think this is the most interesting point because it goes to values. First, if one is a small or medium sized business and one wants to hire someone on a provisional basis to work a few hours a week they can. They can still use provisional hires and part time work to test the mettle of a worker, and since California is an at will employment state they can release that worker if hired provisionally at no risk.

        “According to the California Labor Code, California is an Aat-will@ employment state. Under the at-will presumption, a California employer, absent an agreement or statutory or public policy exception to the contrary, may terminate an employee for any reason at any time.”

        As a small business owner I did this many times.

        So the question is what motivates a business person to hire a provisional employee at “a couple of bucks and hours” to test them out rather than at the minimum wage? If it is worth a couple of bucks an hour to test someone as an at will employee isn’t it worth $10 per hour to test that person? How many hours of shopping cart collection does it take to figure out if someone works with purpose? How many hours behind the counter at McDonald’s? how many hours in the store to decide if they can stock shelves or run the cash register and balance at the end of the day?

        I simply don’t buy the idea that if it worth it to test a new worker at $3 per hour it is not worth it to test them at $10 per hour.

        The reason that the employer would be violating local, state and federal laws by hiring that person at a couple of bucks an hour is that the worker deserves to be officially recognized rather than paid under the table, which is all too common, to have social security, workers compensation and un-employment insurance withheld in order to begin building up those benefits, and to be covered by workers compensation should they get hit by a car backing up while they are collecting shopping carts.

        These are not radical worker protections; they are protections we have decided we need because people need to build up retirement funds, get injured on the job or become un-employed. We, as a society, have decided to provide these protections, along with things like mandatory breaks and safety equipment, because we have learned through experience that we need them.

        This is the cost of doing business. To believe that workers deserve basic protections is neither ignorant nor cruel, it is the wisdom of experience built up in our system.

        These protections also protect the employer, from rising taxes to pay the cost of the indigent aged (which we are really going to need to address as real wages have fallen), from litigation over workplace injuries, and from the communities with high unemployment leading to high crime and and no mechanisms to train workers for future employment, which is a big chuck of unemployment insurance.

    2. Chip I have no problem with Unions and in fact the North & South series is one of my favorites because it deals so well with the relationship between employer and employees. What I oppose is either side using the power of the government to achieve their ends.

      1. Put your ear to the tracks, you can hear the dog whistle from right there. North South? Slavery? Really.

      2. Chip I was referring to the BBC production about England! 🙂
        If you have not seen it I think you would enjoy it: It even takes some cheap shots at conservative Christianity!

  9. Here is Kersti’s response on Rebane’s site:

    “I see that Steve Frisch has responded to my question (this thread, 01Apr16 03:37 PM) but in no way answered it on the FUE’s blog (02Apr16 8:48 AM). He said that my question is a straw man but it is not as I never claimed that he favored a $100 per hour minimum wage. He then went on, at characteristic length, to explain his support for the current minimum wage increase which is only tangentially related to what I had asked.

    I find his non-answer to be in no way surprising.”

    I guess Kesti just does not understand what a straw man argument is. He implied that if $15 is good $100 is better, on projected on my position, that $15 is good, that rationale. That is a a straw man.
    I never made such a claim.

    If Kersti wants to actually debate the issue perhaps he should come here and do it.

    But to answer the question more directly, since both Kersti and John seem to miss the ‘based on economic analysis’ point that I have repeated made, increases in minimum wage have proven diminishing returns. As the regulated minimum wages goes up the benefit derived from the increase diminishes as jobs paying that wage are eliminated. The question is what is the tolerance of business to absorb the wage increase. Analysis on the $15 minimum wage shows that at $15 more jobs are either created or retained, spreading economic benefit and cost savings through the system, than are destroyed. If the wage increased to $100 more jobs would be destroyed than are created.

    Got it?

  10. No minimum wage increase? So it is OK to keep wages low so that employees have to use social services just to be able to pay rent, utilities, child care, and put food on the table? Then these greedy, anti-minimum wage folks can whine about their tax dollars. OK, that’s the ticket

  11. While the fight for a living wage goes on, where do benefits fit into this? Fifteen dollars an hour is great but what is the real economic cost for that if there are no accompanied benefits like health care, maternity and sick leave, etc. Would $10 and hour with full benefits be better than $15 without?

  12. Considering the Earned Income Credit your idea could work quite well Joe. Still I believe the whining will exist due to the EIC that the working poor receives

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