“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!