“Fake news” in The Union winds up in the publisher’s column and Boardman’s blog, targeting Senum

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The print edition of The Union, on page A9, on December 2, 2016 misquoted Senum. And The Union publisher and George Boardman repeated the error.

“The local good old boys journalists” are at it again, targeting former Nevada City Mayor and community leader Reinette Senum when they should be apologizing!

On December 2, in a front page article in The Union titled “Nevada County residents stand with Standing Rock,” the newspaper misquoted local Reinette Senum in egregious fashion. The Union quoted her as saying “They blew a woman’s arm off with a water cannon,” when she said it was a “concussion grenade.”

The incident was widely reported. Witnesses contend it was a concussion grenade; police claim activists set off the explosion; but no one was arguing that it was a water cannon that badly injured her arm. Rather, the investigation has focused on a small explosion.

Nonetheless, The Union’s columnist George Boardman repeated the misquote on his blog in a post on December 7, using it to ridicule Senum. Titled “There’s Reinette Senum, and then there’s the facts,” Boardman wrote: “Senum surfaced again last Saturday on page one of The Union, where she spoke to a reporter from Standing Rock …. Once again, she shaped the facts to match her agenda. While describing the situation in North Dakota, she told The Union reporter Elias Funez that police ‘blew a woman’s arm off with a water cannon,’ adding that the woman’s bone was completely exposed after having the water cannon shot at her. … How she was injured depends on who you want to believe, but both sides agree she wasn’t injured by Senum’s water cannon.”

To the contrary, Senum never said that, and in fact, The Union corrected the error online — but not in print (see print error above). The online edition was corrected to read: “Senum reported seeing a woman’s arm lost to a concussion grenade via livestream in which she confirmed upon arrival at the camp.”

Then The Union’s publisher Don Rogers joined Boardman in repeating the misquote a third time in a column on February 23 writing: “This has something of the same whiff as the local leftist politician claiming such things as . . . water cannons at the Keystone protest site blowing arms off …” Again, he just parroted the misquote — despite the online correction.

When the misquote first appeared, Senum wrote to The Union reporter pointing out the error in the original December 2 report — along with other mistakes. She said in an email to the reporter: “The water protector lost her arm by a concussion grenade, not a water canon. … I was pulled over 2 miles from the South Dakota border not 2 miles from Standing Rock. I have not witnessed SR growing from 1,000 to 8.000. I have only been here for a week. I believe the number is around 6,000 and it fluctuates. I did not secure the rental car. It was already secured. Never said protestor camps. They are water protectors standing in prayer and in ceremony. Could u please correct this online?”

All this, and The Union seems to think “fake news” is in the domain of Facebook and social media. It ought to be far more introspective, it ought to run a formal correction in print — and it ought to publicly apologize to Senum. Boardman, for his part, should do the same.

The Union also ought to investigate its own news gathering practices — a “teachable moment” for the newsroom, to be sure. An alert editor would have caught a quote that said “they blew a woman’s arm off with a water cannon,” asking the reporter how that could even be possible. The reporter then would have gone back to his or her notebook, and the error could have been fixed before the article was published.

The Union continues to suffer from arrogance and hubris when it comes to its news gathering practices. Podunk!

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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12 Responses to “Fake news” in The Union winds up in the publisher’s column and Boardman’s blog, targeting Senum

  1. jeffpelline says:

    Here are some signed comments being generated on Facebook on this issue:

    Jennifer Robin — I was the there when you talked to the Union and am a witness to what you said vs. what they printed!

    Reinette Senum — So glad you were, Jennifer Robin. And now you are actually seeing the publisher continue to spread their misquote!

    Jennifer Robin — I was even there when you corrected them!

    Wehttam Drolyag — The Union is a joke.

    Skyzer Mowen — To make it worse, the Union isn’t even printed up here anymore. They bounced and now run it from the Sac Bee.

    Rick Pokrajen-Harmon — You can count on The Union. They’ll always get it wrong.

    Artemas Rex — FAKE NEWS

    Donna Graham — They have a good garage sale list.

    William Melendy — Reinette, that’s what fake news is all about, building on previous mistakes.

    CJ Bahan — Weak small town “journalism”

    Scott Steuer — Best use I have found for the union is starting fires in my woodstove

    Victoria LaFont — Wow, what a nasty website (George Boardman’s blog). Reinette Senum, I hear you’re frustrated. But your work is so much bigger than this.

    Cynthia Levesque — Who writes this crap? (Boardman’s blog). This is hateful and although you do deserve an apology, it’s probably best to ignore such stupidity.

  2. jeffpelline says:

    I like this one, directed at Boardman:

    Alli Gallixsee — Who writes a blog and fails to provide any information on themselves? What a wimp. There is not a single bit of info on the author anywhere on that blog. It’s not even worth talking about, whoever wrote this is a nasty troll who makes themselves feel better by saying mean things about people without offering any opportunity for them to respond.

  3. Brad Croul says:

    In their hurry to scoop the Internet, journalists seem to be getting sloppy in their reporting.

    To use TrumpSpeak – SO SAD!

  4. jeffpelline says:

    What a hoot! Boardman has now “unpublished” the fake news he published in the first place and replaced it with this: https://ncroadkill.com/2017/02/28/correction-of-a-post-based-on-erroneous-information/. The trouble is that more than two months have passed, Google has indexed the content, and according to Senum on Facebook, she has a “screen grab.”

  5. jeffpelline says:

    Meanwhile, the trolls on Todd’s blog are too stupid to figure this out, and Todd keeps patting them on the back. Todd was a friend of an ex-publisher of the Union, Jeff Ackerman. Go figure! The sooner this newspaper is transformed into a brewpub the better. lol.

  6. Bert Wheeler says:

    Jeff if the beer pub goes ahead can you imagine what will be printed in the so called paper.After some beers here comes “I know” let s run with it.Never ever will I have a beer in there.

  7. Annie Fox says:

    I’m not surprised at this at all. Even looking at the opinions, not facts, that are printed in the Union from the hysterical Mrs. Barbara Smardich to Mrs. Elaine Meckler, and Mrs. Nancy Garcia no wonder it’s become bottom of the bird cage fodder. They have a right to free speech and opinion but sadly it lacks facts.

    • jeffpelline says:

      They have a right to free speech, and locals have a right not to subscribe. I hear that more and more. The Union is at a crossroads, to be sure.

  8. jon smith says:

    I have never subscribed to the Union yet their rag keeps getting stuffed into my NY Times tube. Is this how they maintain subscriber numbers to trick businesses into feeling like they are getting something for their advertising dollars? I have long since given up asking them to keep their paper out of my tube.

  9. Brad Croul says:

    I consider it junk mail (junk news?) when they throw advertiser copies into my bushes since I don’t subscribe to a paper edition.

  10. jeffpelline says:

    A reader sent me an email about Boardman’s column this morning, including the snide remarks directed at local “lefties,” mentioning some by name. The note about Boardman read: “This guy is such an ass****.”

  11. Chip wilder says:

    Again- Boardman shows his disconnect. Wait till LaMalfa sees how many indivisible women show up to call bull**** on failed representation. Try peddling “death panels” now —

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