Readers respond to Munkelt’s letter to The Union Publisher Hemig

On Facebook, readers are responding to attorney Steve Munkelt’s “Other Voices” directed at The Union publisher Jim Hemig’s column about the Lamphier case. “In response to Jim Hemig’s column, if you want to know why one of my cases has been continued, please just call me and ask. I think that used to be called ‘fact checking’ in journalism school,” it begins.

Eleanore Mac Donald: The Union — don’t get me started. Small town, backwoods rag, non-journalism.

Bruce Levy: The Union is a bad joke, and has been for years.

Bert Wheeler: The Union is an embarrassment.

CiCi Stewart: The blatantly obvious question is why would the publisher for our local paper print an article questioning attorney Stephen Munkelt without a conversation or discussion with him to get the facts. I’m appalled.

Carla Bonetti: The level of incompetence in this county is horrific.

Mike Thornton: Obviously two different types of cases and people. But I remember when The Union went after supervisor Bruce Conklin, alleging all types of financial improprieties. Of course, this all took place right before an election and once Bruce lost, the paper never mentioned any of it again. So, in short, this is nothing new for The Union.

“Hemig High Times” includes an ad for bulk water delivery

I found a copy of the “Nevada County Cannabis” publication that The Union is publishing as it seeks new revenue steams beyond its six-day-a-week newspaper (AKA “Tea Party Gazette,” at least to some longtime locals).

You’d hardly know that The Union publishes “Nevada County Cannabis” if you read it: There is just a vague reference that it is published by “Nevada County Publishing Co.”  on the masthead. The Union publishes a link to its supplements and  its other publications (including a pocket-sized Visitor’s Guide for the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce), but “Nevada County Cannabis” is not included.

The newsprint publication has ads from Grow-Tech Systems, “Cool Consultants” (AKA California’s oldest cannabis-focused medical practice), Sweetland Garden Supply, Four Seasons Landscape Materials, Hometown Hydroponics.

The most interesting ad (a reflection of our historic and prolonged drought) reads: “Looking for bulk water delivery?” “We deliver water to Grass Valley, Yuba City, Truckee, everywhere in between” “We transfer potable water”

A calendar of upcoming events lists the “High Times Cannabis Cup” in San Francisco.

On a separate but related note, I notice The Union publisher Jim Hemig wrote a column this morning titled “Honey oil isn’t for breakfast tea?” “I would say honey oil production and the possibility of improper use resulting in fire, property damage and injury is a much greater issue in our part of Western Nevada County than most people realize,” he writes. “So, what do we do about this? First step is awareness. The Union will continue to report on honey oil developments. Second, as a community we need to share the potential dangers, support law enforcement efforts and push our elected officials toward legislation protecting our community.”

OK then. It almost sounds like he wants it both ways.

Ignoring context or disclosure, The Union runs another hard-right rant on its op-ed page

Last week, The Union Publisher Jim Hemig wrote: “We are also working on a possible educational opportunity to teach folks in our community the best way to write and submit an op-ed piece.”

It couldn’t come soon enough when we hear comments like this from our local educators and parents, such as Chris Bishop: “I have very dear friends that work at The Union so I rarely and reluctantly comment on threads about the Union. However, the Union is a cancer to this community with its editorial policy. I implore Mr. Hemig and Mr. Hamilton to listen to this commentary and advance the quality of submissions. . . . To keep the editorial page, in my words, a cesspool, is mind-boggling.”

But Hemig’s actions will speak louder than his words, because the issue with the Op-Ed page is ongoing — and mind-boggling. This morning Jim ran a letter from Sue Jeffrey, launching an assault at Cheryl Cook, who quit The Union’s editorial board because she found it wasn’t “fair and balanced” enough.

“I found many of the broad-sweeping statements made by Cheryl Cook in her “Welcoming Community?” column (The Union, Jan. 31) to be just plain untrue,” Sue wrote, defending The Union along the way and not giving Cook a chance to respond.

This style is not new. In the past Sue Jeffrey has attacked others on The Union’s editorial page, calling one “bitter, vindictive with a case of sour grapes” — again without rebuttal. Instead, to use his own words, Hemig should be showing Sue “the best way to write and submit an op-ed piece.”

What Publisher Hemig and The Union didn’t disclose to readers is Sue’s own hard-right political bias — and activism. She is a tea party member (by her own admission), has contributed her commentary to the tea party website attacking Obama, Agenda 21, Common Core — and even Cheryl Cook, the former Union board member.

Sue has sponsored hard-right speakers, and she has shown support for Cliven Bundy, writing: “As for Mr. Bundy and BLM, in the 1990s the BLM drastically cut almost every rancher’s permit because of the desert tortoise even though the cattle and the tortoise had coexisted for over 100 years — much like they’ve done with the ‘frogs and toads’ in California, even though it is well documented that the habitat is not causing their decline — a fungus is.”

Yet the Op-Ed page runs its right-wing rants without enough context or disclosure to the “average citizen.” It is hard to imagine how The Union can grow its readership, or its business, clinging to an aging, conservative demographic. But then, one businesses’ misfortune is another’s opportunity.

Memo to The Union publisher: It’s dessert, not desert

God Bless our local newspaper: This morning the publisher was waxing on about his for-profit “Chocolate Infusion” get-together for $20 a head, writing in the second sentence: “This is The Union’s third year hosting the fun and delicious desert (sic), wine, art and music event.”

Cool, but I think you meant dessert, not desert. Most of us would rather eat a chocolate truffle than sand. Will there be camels? The Union can’t hire more copy editors soon enough. Good luck with the gathering, though! And it’s never to late to fix a spelling error online, just not in print. TGIF.
Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 6.26.50 AM

Jim Hemig stands to lose copy editors, not just pressmen, when he outsources printing

It’s 2014, not 2012! A glaring error in the Seattle Times, later trashed, thanks to quick thinking pressmen

At the end of a column, The Union Publisher Jim Hemig recently wrote that the 15K circulation community newspaper is going to “printed on the Bee’s press” in Sacramento — for the first time in 150 years.

This could result in local job cuts — as all outsourcing does. For his part, Hemig said: “This version update will cause change, as all upgrades do. The Union will be hiring new people, retraining some and helping others find a possible new career path. Not many, but just more than a dozen positions of The Union’s nearly 60-person staff will change across 2015.”

If you do the math, that’s about 20 percent of the workforce. Time will tell regarding the final tally on jobs.

Meanwhile, as most seasoned businessmen know, outsourcing can come at a cost. In the case of publishing, pressmen also can be copy editors — catching embarrassing and costly mistakes as a paper is being printed.

The stories of pressmen catching mistakes are legendary in newsrooms. Here’s a recent example in an article titled “Good catch, Seattle pressman” by veteran journalist Jim Romenesko, whose blog is popular among professionals in the industry. (I don’t know if Jim Hemig reads it, but he should):

“Good catch, pressmen”!

“Seattle Times pressroom employee J. Michael Klop – my tipster on Twitter – writes:

“I walked in at 7:30 p.m. to begin setting up for the Saturday Edition on Press #2 as they were just finishing the full Bulldog run of 20,000 on Press #4. My buddy, Rick, who was in charge of the Bulldog press, held up a paper and said ‘see anything wrong with this!’ (see photo). He said they noticed it as soon as they started pulling check copies, but when they alerted platemaking and editorial ‘downtown,’ there was nobody there who was willing to make a decision to stop the run and remake the page.

“Finally, after finishing the run, there was a call back from downtown saying to wait for a new set of plates … as they were going to toss the entire 20,000 and rerun the full draw.

“I of course managed to snag a few for my collection!

“Update: Times editor Kathy Best writes in an email: Because of the crazy holiday weekend schedule I can’t tell you much more than you already know: We ran about 20,000 Bulldogs with a glaring error; none was distributed. The error occurred in the newsroom. It was caught in the press room. But because the press run only lasts about 30 minutes, we didn’t send a corrected page in time to catch the run. Not a great day, including missing a chance to say.”

Maybe Jim Hemig can get his friends at the parody website NC Scooper — where he likes to comment despite a busy workday — to investigate this issue, or perhaps he commission his staff cartoonist RL Crabb to draw a cartoon about it.

Meanwhile, for serious journalists, losing a line of editorial “defense” like this to catch an error (not to mention local jobs) is no laughing matter.

New Union publisher giving himself a lot of ink while others wish he’d focus on “fair and balanced”

In “Hall deserves more ink,” a letter writer wrote in The Union this morning, “Ms. (Heidi) Hall’s views and opinions, on the other hand, were limited to five paragraphs on page 5 while LaMalfa dominated all of the front page and most of page 5. Since Ms. Hall is the lesser known and the opposing candidate, it seems that she should have been allocated at least equal space and exposure so that we could learn and evaluate her positions.

“A more balanced coverage of candidates would benefit your readers, and diffuse the impression of favoritism — as your newspaper should be doing.”

It was a good point. The Union long has been criticized for favoring conservatives at the expense of Democrats. Some label it the “Tea Party Gazette.” Its publishers long have been politically conservative and often been known more for glad handing than journalism.

At the same time this letter ran, I notice The Union’s new publisher, Jim Hemig — though “lesser known,” like Heidi Hall — is giving himself lots of ink in the newspaper. Now it has even spilled into the news stories.

Today a staff photo on the front page of shows Jim talking a lunch walk with the NU principal in a story about the principal inviting parents, educators and residents onto the campus. It was gratuitous to include the newspaper publisher. This week alone, we’ve seen photos of Hemig picking grapes on The Union’s Facebook page, or “Hemig: Breakfast with the publisher,” or “Hemig: You’re invited to our party.” (For the record, Jim is a Republican). Or another news story: “2 Measure S debates, 1 Union publisher.” Huh?

A publisher can’t be in all places at the same time. But readers here have raised good points about the publisher spending more time “back at the ranch” worrying a lot more about being “fair and balanced” rather than promoting the newspaper and even himself its own pages. It’s a balancing act, to be sure.

But here’s what readers want the publisher to focus on to improve the newspaper: “I’m going to ask him, in a friendly way, to edit the OpEd’s and letters submitted to The Union for truthfulness,” as a reader here wrote. And here was the response: “Good luck Greg. I won’t be holding my breath.” Seems like there’s some work to do on this front.

The Union’s new publisher is a registered GOPer, voter rolls show

Jim Hemig, the new publisher of The Union, has been putting together an editorial board with some polarizing political personalities, such as Stan Meckler and CABPRO member Norm Sauer.

Norm, along with other Agenda 21 foes and CABPRO supporters, spoke at the Supes meeting this week, speaking out against sending a letter to Gov. Brown to weigh in with the Feds on local fire protection. Norm’s a regular on such issues. The Supes disagreed — and should have. Local tea-partier Meckler had been seeking a seat on the editorial board. Others are “progressives” but don’t resort to such high-pitched, negative rhetoric.

But what are Publisher Jim’s politics? He’s a registered Republican, according to the voter rolls, which are public information.

Jim is a longtime member of the Swift management team. (Jeff Ackerman is still on that team). Most of the past publishers of The Union have leaned to the right, or far right — not left. The Ingrams, who used to own the paper, are staunch conservatives. So is Jack Moorhead, a former publisher.

One local joked that being a conservative might be part of the job description for publisher of The Union.

In the past, the newspaper’s management has teamed up with the Contractors PAC and longtime conservative business people to support like-minded local candidates. It’s an open secret.

Let’s hope Jim can break with the past and show some real nonpartisan spirit. After all, the voter roles are “purple.” The Union also has to attract new readers.

Hemig was a speaker at the local tea party’s general membership meeting this week. He’s spoken to local Democrat groups too.

I’ve been disappointed with the treatment of Democrat Jim Firth in The Union’s pages and wonder if Terry Lamphier is next.

In Truckee, a more “progressive” newspaper called Moonshine Ink has been challenging the Swift-owned newspapers. It is generating most of the buzz.

For the record, I’ve been a “decline to state” voter since I was 18 and have voted for Democrats and Republicans.

Good luck Jim!

“Back to the future” in The Union: Contractors’ PAC leader Allen rips on Council Candidate Firth without rebuttal

Contractors' PAC Chairman Allen
Contractors’ PAC Chairman Allen
Jim Firth
Jim Firth
Publisher Hemig wrote: "Are you a good old boy:?
Publisher Hemig wrote: “Are you a good old boy”?

“The local politics are so nasty because the stakes are so small.” — A former colleague of mine at The Union

We can’t seem to shake the discussion of the “good old boys” network in our community this week. The people who dismiss it keep bringing it up — albeit it with their own spin. And there’s no rebuttal presented alongside it.

A one-sided discussion culminated on Friday with a nasty-toned column directed at Grass Valley City Council Candidate Jim Firth by Contractors’ PAC Chairman Keoni Allen in our “community newspaper,” The Union. Allen also praised Publisher Jim Hemig’s column titled “Are you a good old boy” as “excellent.” In fact, Hemig exacerbated the debate without providing much substance to the real concerns raised about tolerating multiple political views, backgrounds and experiences in a small town.

This morning Hemig deflected attention on the debate with a generous “Shop Local” column, pointing out that he bought furniture at Ashley’s Furniture Home Store. (We also bought furniture at Ashley’s predecessor, Hedman’s). Taken together, Allen’s column and Hemig’s send a peculiar message of praise and blame on the Op-Ed page — but both are to the newspaper’s own benefit.

To me, we have returned to the Jeff Ackerman era at The Union where political foes are “called out” in the newspaper, and the pages become a “bully pulpit.” Civil discourse is being thrown out the window at The Union, and it just rekindles perceptions of a “good old boys” network.

Allen signed his column as a “contractor, business owner and chamber of commerce” member, but The Union did not mention he is the Political Action Committee chairman of the Nevada County Contractors Association. (For its part, The Union ought to be reporting more on this PAC and its donations, just like others).

Allen’s scathing column was titled “Who is Jim Firth?” It was just like the one he wrote about Terry Lamphier in his race against Dan Miller, which also ran in The Union. That one was titled “Sometimes the Truth Hurts.”

Both were negative campaign ads against the candidates, who happen to be Democrats. At least in the one directed at Lamphier, Allen signed his name as “Keoni Allen, who lives in Grass Valley, is chairman of the Nevada County Contractors Association Political Action Committee.” That’s the truth.

Beason’s experience with the Contractors in McGuire campaign

The Democrats are not alone in feeling attacked by prominent members of the Contractors Association. Earlier this week, District 1 Supervisor Nate Beason, a moderate Republican, reminded voters that he also has felt their sting.

During a hearing on Tuesday on the Outdoor Event Ordinance, a resident speaking before the board suggested the Contractors Association wielded undue influence in our county’s decision making.

Beason made a point to remind the speaker that he too had felt the wrath of the Contractors Association. Indeed he had.

Nate was referring to his 2012 race against tea-party candidate Sue McGuire, who had the support of leading members of the Contractors Association, including Allen and Bruce Ivy.

Their endorsements showed up on McGuire’s website and a full page ad that ran in a special section of The Union about the election — on the inside cover, no less. It also included vocal supporters of the tea party, among others.

During the campaign, Nate felt he was being unfairly singled out for approving a decision to support an airport safety plan at the Nevada County Airport as a member of the Airport Land Use Commission. Ed Scofield voted for the plan, along with Nate. Grass Valley Council Member Dan Miller also sat on the Commission.

As a result, a lawsuit was filed by the City of Grass Valley and developers/real estate speculators — “seven people,” including Allen and Ivy— over the airport safety plan approved by the Commission. The lawsuit led to some real political friction. Details are here. The suit later was dropped.

photo-11251The Beason-McGuire campaign got nasty. The negative campaigning also came to my neighborhood. Signs popped up reading “So Nate, aren’t 2 terms enough???”

No one knew who put up the signs, but Nate had his suspicions.

Beason won the race, but it created some hard feelings.

Miller-Lamphier and political leaders of the Contractors Association

Flash forward to this spring’s District 3 Supervisor race, where Miller was challenging Terry Lamphier.

This time, “It’s Miller Time” campaign signs were hung over the “nonpartisan” Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. This time, we knew who hung the signs.

It was the Chamber building’s landlord, which includes Allen’s Sierra Pacific Construction.

1979659_490096684430298_1668970563_n111“To be sure, many people in our community are upset about the issue,” as I wrote at the time. “Some are supporters of incumbent Terry Lamphier for District 3 supervisor in June, but others were just hoping for better business judgment. They’ve cited it as an example of political bullying. Some people also feel betrayed, because they worked so hard to help the Chamber in its effort to sign up new members since its ‘reorganization.’

The Union also wrote about the incident. In this race, Miller unseated Lamphier. The negative campaigning worked.

Now Lamphier and Firth are running for Council, challenging incumbent Jason Fouyer and Jerri Glover, a volunteer at the Chamber.

Judging from the barbs, it’s going to be a long campaign season; the election isn’t until November 4. As for The Union, it needs take ownership for not letting the campaigns turn into a “mudpit” on its own pages.