Jim Hemig: Why put crime on page one?
April 4, 2014
As the new publisher at The Union I have been warmly welcomed by the people of this amazing community. I am very impressed and quite honored by the phone calls, emails and meeting invites that I have received.
I've met many local business people, community leaders and, of course, readers of The Union newspaper and TheUnion.com website.
I have been given both positive feedback and constructive criticism about how to improve the daily news and information we provide — so much so that I'm confident this newspaper is a very important part of Nevada County.
I hope to share some of this feedback in future weeks, but I wanted to start with the number one question I have received:
When the community says it’s not a serious issue facing us, then The Union can move it off the front page.
Why does The Union run stories about drug busts and crime on page one?
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This question was best posed to me by a very nice woman I met at the January Sustainable Food and Farm Conference here in Grass Valley.
She simply said, "If you don't remove the drug stories from page one, I'll cancel my subscription."
While I don't want that to happen, my answer was, and is, the same to all who have asked this question: The Union has a responsibility to report the happenings of this community. We need to reflect the good and the bad that affects our lives in Nevada County.
The newspaper provides a conduit for conversation about these matters, and if we don't report the drug and crime problems in our area, there won't be a community conversation about these important issues.
Without conversation there won't be the pressure necessary to move a community, including its citizens, businesses, political entities and law enforcement, to appropriate action to resolve them.
I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Respondents in the 16th annual Grass Valley Citizen Attitude Survey identified drug abuse and burglary as the top forms of criminal activity impacting the community. Grass Valley Police Chief John Foster presented these results at a recent Grass Valley City Council meeting.
How much drug abuse and crime is there in our community? A little? A lot? I suppose that's based on your opinion of what's tolerable. I personally don't think it's a lot, but more than I'm willing to tolerate.
There was a recent story in The Union regarding an elderly man sitting in his home when a group of older teens broke in, seriously beat him and robbed him. Tolerable? I say no.
We need to cover this topic, and we need to work together and push hard to address the drug and crime impact on our community. It needs to remain on page one until it is no longer an issue.
When the community says it's not a serious issue facing us, then The Union can move it off the front page.
I don't want this to sound critical of our local law enforcement. We also cover all of their great work and contributions. Another recent article in The Union reported police arrested nine individuals while checking out an alleged car burglary.
Officers were led to a residence while investigating the car burglary where a stolen purse containing a bank card was also recovered. Three of nine individuals had outstanding arrest warrants. These actions all speak to the excellent efforts of our law enforcement, and we reported those as well.
And it's not just law enforcement that needs to continue to push hard. Our local government has a heavy role to play establishing a hard line against drug activity and crime.
The citizens in this county need to take action, too, and they are. When I moved to Grass Valley to what appeared to be a nice, quiet neighborhood, my neighbor, a long-time resident, mentioned it wasn't always so. He and other neighbors worked with police to drive people from a nearby "drug house." Another excellent effort.
As our police, government and residents focus on this effort, our community needs to be aware of their progress, and we will report it, often on page one.
I appreciate the people who have asked me the question about covering drugs and crime; it's all part of the healthy dialogue we like to encourage at The Union.
If you agree we need a stronger stand on drugs and crime, tell us. I'll bet most would agree and be willing to take that stand. If you don't agree, let us know that as well.
So to our reader at the Food and Farm Conference and the others that have asked: It's important to know what's happening in our community. And as community members it's our responsibility to help improve it. Knowledge is power. And an informed community is a strong community. That's why it's on page one.
Jim Hemig is publisher at The Union. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4299.