The Union’s new publisher, Jim Hemig, gave us his understanding of today’s media landscape. In his 18apr14 op-ed he compared “the difference between a journalist and a blogger.” His point was that a journalist, especially if he works for The Union, has available all kinds of sources for reporting news and uses them to present a “balanced” view in the published product. Hemig then let us know that “bloggers often don’t have such integrity. They only share one opinion: their own.”
He later goes on to also paint the entire online community (here we’re talking about a global resource with practically infinite content) as somehow speaking with voices that are intrinsically and ubiquitously biased, claiming that “if you really read The Union … you will find it is a balanced and a much fairer place than anywhere on the Internet (and definitely in print).”
Now I am not familiar with Mr Hemig’s background and may well be underestimating the gentleman, but this op-ed piece does give me pause as to what kind of publishing and journalistic talent our newspaper is currently brandishing. First of all, he grossly errs in posing the initial question, putting in doubt his understanding of the structure of today’s information media. To wit, a blogger is a person who publishes a weblog or blog, and can be a journalist, commentator (like me), affinity group (e.g. gardening) editor, or simply a family member maintaining a family information and communication repository (e.g. on Facebook). And a journalist is just one type of wordsmith from the many who can publish his work on one or more kinds of media outlets – print newspapers and magazines, TV, radio, cable, documentary videos, online news outlets (Reuters, AP), blogs, … . Comparing the difference between journalists and bloggers is at best failing to distinguish between the content provider and the outlet medium.
The Rebanes are long time subscribers to both the print and online editions of The Union. The newspaper itself is a run-of-the-mill small town publication that often displays its best efforts in sometimes humorous, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes even infuriating ways. We cannot characterize it as a career fulfillment workplace for anyone who works in the news industry. Nevertheless, it is the most read news outlet in our community, and it is the best print medium we have and the best that our dollars can support.
The good news is that for most local thinking people The Union is but one of a hundred sources from which they regularly get their news and commentaries that offer competing viewpoints. The paper should be considered within this perspective, and our criticism of it should not be done in the context of putting it next to the big guys like the NYT, LA Times, or Washington Post. Most certainly the claims of any news outlet for being fair and balanced – be it Fox News or MSNBC – should be taken with a block of salt, and that includes the breast beating of our little Union. Not every story is or can be ‘fair’ to all concerned, and most certainly every news item doesn’t come with a hidden ‘balance’ that a journalist or commentator must always dig out and reveal. The world is not built that way, but it can be painted as such by people pushing this agenda or that – and everyone has an agenda, which reality is easily verifiable from a perusal of the so-called world class media.
In sum, The Union is Nevada County’s cosa nostra (‘our thing’) in news, let’s enjoy it as it is, and just smile when its management tries a little puffery to rebut its often gratuitous critics.