New columnist “true confessions”: More corporate PR than journalism

George Boardman, the Union’s new weekly columnist, has wasted no time confirming he is an Ackerman “mini me.”

Though promising to find a “middle ground,” his blog wastes no time ridiculing my personal appearance and even my business, which unlike (The Stonehouse restaurant his family once ran) is thriving.

Why so petty? Because he doesn’t have anything tangible to grab onto, so he throws rocks from the sidelines.

Though The Union editor praises George’s “career in journalism,” George confesses that he spent “most of working years in corporate public relations.” (He left the word “my” out).

George is already being spun by the hard right, clueless about their tsunami that is about to engulf our local political scene for the 2014 elections, including the “nonpartisan” posts (because he has no “sourcing”).

You can also be sure that Ackerman has a direct pipeline to Boardman’s email “in” box, as he has in the past.

George promises to report from the “center,” though he ridicules the sustainable food movement, laws to protect the transgender community and praises McClintock’s legislation.

So what’s new at The Union? Nothing. Our western county politics is about as toxic as it gets. First Amendment rights are OK — as long as they are like-minded opinions.

Why I don’t subscribe to our local newspaper

Jeff, I’m looking forward to reading what George (Boardman) has to say…
—Bonnie McGuire

Hi Bonnie,

To be sure, George Boardman will keep you on board as a subscriber to The Union newspaper. He shares your political and social values, and like you, he is a retiree. He’s a Jeff Ackerman “mini me,” in style and substance. You’ll have to see that over time, mind you, not in a single column or two. So, yes, he views the world largely through your “lens.”

The real question is whether he will be able to help reel in any new subscribers, including me, which is why The Union does a “readership survey.” I wouldn’t sign up for The Union because George Boardman writes a weekly column, RL Crabb draws a cartoon, there is local news and so on.

It’s not because of any “grudge” or their manners, it’s business: I don’t find the “content” interesting enough to pay for a subscription – print or online. The local news reports also come from Yubanet, social media, KNCO, KVMR, blogs, and government websites — for free. The Union news reports are often incomplete or amateurish.

And therein lies the problem for The Union. Competition and its content. And my time.

I’m also a would-be advertiser to The Union. I advertised once, but didn’t find it effective or a good customer service experience. It was more just about a blank face selling me a display ad and taking my credit card number — before the ad even ran. The fellow was polite but not experienced about business — he was more of an “order taker.” The Union’s content also is locked behind a “paywall,” which limits its reach for advertisers.

In truth, people like me are George’s “customer,” RL Crabb’s customer, Brian Hamilton’s and Dave Schmall’s customer. The same is true of Jeff Ackerman, who is an employee of the Swift chain, which publishes The Union. He’s a “representative” of this publishing company.

And there are a lot of people like me for The Union to sign up. Just look at the subscriber numbers and the skewed demographics (toward older, not younger). Its next 150 years depend on it.

People in our demographic tend to decide the local elections (“moderates”), shop in town (not Roseville), support “sustainability,” generously support nonprofits with checks, and we are growing local business owners with local contractors.

We go to church, send local flowers to our friends, belong to nonprofits and our local Chamber of Commerce, attend local events, subscribe to a newspaper (The Bee), buy food from our farmers at the farmers market and through CSAs and so on.

We are little local “economic engines,” and we always “shop local.” We also are raising a child in our community (a “millennial” consumer for The Union if he decides to live here).

All told, The Union should be working much harder to “sign us up,” with better content and a reader demographic that is more diverse (including politically) for advertisers to reach. It’s not personal, Bonnie, it’s business.

Our local newspaper bags ex-publisher “mini me” to write a weekly column — whoo hoo!

UnknownLess than a few days after The Union painted our community as yahoos to the world with sloppy reporting on a “Support Our Troops” sign at a church, the editor is gleefully announcing that George Boardman — a “mini me” of our ex-publisher, in style and substance — will write a weekly column each Monday.

George is a friend of Jeff Ackerman and his glory days of journalism were spent at The Union, though he might have climbed as high up the ladder as the Palo Alto Times. George’s family was involved in running The Stonehouse Restaurant in Nevada City, which closed.

He also worked in PR, often considered a “cop out” for serious journalists, at least in George’s era.

George lives in Lake of the Pines. When I read his columns, I regularly conclude that he should mingle more with Californians — on the Coast or at least in Sacramento or Tahoe.

My main complaint about George is that he’s really average, bouncing around in the minor leagues of journalism without much entrepreneurial achievement, but he pretends to be a real “know it all.”

In fact, he’s guilty of the same common journalism flaw as his friend Ackerman — “jack of all trades, master of none.”

It’s a classic “big fish, small pond” syndrome, “all hat, no cattle,” or a guy who throws rocks from the sidelines but never has won many big games.

I figure The Union brought him onboard to placate the “righty’s” of our community, who complain the new publisher is too soft compared with Ackerman. It came after a “readership survey.” On the hard-right political blogs, one reader has been speculating about another looming management shakeup.

It’s a safe move too. George also is popular with the RL Crabb contingent, many “shifters” and other community old timers. They defend him wholeheartedly, like mother hens.

It’s a big mistake if The Union ever expects to grow its readership — and a classic “inside the box,” “cul de sac” recruit. And to preserve what? The readership is aging and declining.

On George’s blog, you’ll find headlines like “Is ObamaCare on its way to becoming ObamaGeddon?”

Or “Transgender bathrooms? In elementary school?,” where he writes: “But the conservatives have it right with their latest cause, repeal of a new California law that lets transgender students choose which bathrooms and locker rooms to use, and which sports teams to join based on their gender identify.”

George also thinks Tom McClintock’s bill to salvage timber — widely criticized by knowledgeable environmentalists — “should be given serious consideration.”

You can also read George making fun of real-food author Michael Pollan when he came to town, while also belittling the sustainable food movement — even though it is gaining traction in our community.

“GM crops have helped ensure food security and bolster incomes for farmers, and better GM crops are in the pipeline. Billions of people are leading longer, healthier lives since the commercialization of GM foods over 17 year ago,” he wrote.

George also likes to bring up the old saw that healthier food costs more. “Duh”! as he would put it. “Organic? Eat a Big Mac and pocket the change,” he writes.

George likes to make fun of our County officials, referring to their “clueless comments” but again, I’d cringe to think of him executing any county responsibilities. Talk is cheap.

He also was a business writer but shows a poor understanding of Silicon Valley’s role in propelling our state economy out of the recession, using trite phrases such as “irrational exuberance.”

George makes fun of Netflix, which would have made him a bundle if he’d bought the stock instead of made fun of it.

Like Ackerman, George has a chip on his shoulder and is insecure around people who are smarter or more successful than he is.

Congratulations to The Union! It is starting off the new year taking a giant step back to the days of its ex-publisher. And drawing a smaller circle around itself.