Have you detected a shift in The Union?
A fellow I never met asked John Seelmeyer (the editor here) to ask me if I would join him for lunch to discuss the “shift” in the newspaper since my arrival.
I suppose he didn’t ask me directly because he thought I was responsible for the “shift” and wanted John to serve as some sort of referee, just in case we were on opposite sides of the shift.
“What side of the shift is this fellow on?” I asked John, wondering if I should rearrange my office furniture.
“He’s a Democrat,” said John. “And he writes an occasional column for us.”
The fact that he still writes a column for us might indicate that the “shift” hasn’t been that dramatic.
I’ll assume for the sake of assuming that this Democrat/ columnist assumes that I am not a Democrat, and that I’m determined to “shift” this paper away from his particular side of the Great Divide. Your perspective of “shifts,” or movements, is often determined by where you happen to be standing at the time of the shift.
By way of background, The Union has only had nine publishers in its 137-year history. That would be an average of 15 years per publisher, except for the fact that four of us have come in just in the last eight or nine years. We’ve become a much more mobile society and people just don’t stay put like they used to.
I know four of my predecessors, and used to know five before he passed away not too long ago. Each one of them had a deep desire to make this newspaper better and to play a role in helping to shape this community. That’s what a newspaper that has survived 28 presidents, a civil war, two world wars and numerous skirmishes is expected to do.
The Union’s marching orders were established early on with the proclamation that we would “support man and measure over partisanship.” I’ll buy into that one. I’m getting kind of sick of partisanship and would rather support man and measure any day of the week.
The Union publishers I knew never let me see their ballots, and whenever we got together, we talked newspapers and not politics. I think we pretty much agreed that balance was important on the news pages and that our opinions ought to stay on the opinion pages.
One of my mentors suggested to me early in my career that I should always strive to “do the right thing” and that everything else generally works out for the best. He didn’t mention “man and measure” at all, but I’ll guess that’s what he meant by the right thing.
As far as “shifting” anything goes, I like to leave that up to Seelmeyer when it comes to the news pages. That’s his job and he’s done well at it here for 11 years or so. That’s saying something, when you consider all the “shifting” that’s gone on.
Believe it or not, this is a business, and my job is to make sure business is good enough to pay the bills, to ensure that stuff gets fixed when stuff breaks, to referee fights, to cook hamburgers and hot dogs once in awhile for the employees, to be the place where the buck stops, and to make sure this newspaper continues to be a community player.
That doesn’t mean I won’t poke my nose into the newsroom when I sense a “shift” might be affecting our news decisions, mind you. I, too, have a nose for shifts.
Hopefully, most of the “shifting” will take place on these Opinion Pages. And as far as that goes, I have a right to “shift” any which way I choose. I do that generally on Tuesdays in a column I’ve been writing for years. I’ll also weigh in on those editorials you see attributed to The Union. I have a seat on the editorial board and my vote carries a lot of weight. At least according to my business card.
For the record, I haven’t yet registered to vote in California. If you want to know how I voted in Nevada, check with the secretary of state there. I voted for him.
When “shifting,” I generally shift toward the underdog. I like kids because they’re non-partisan. I like rabbits because my wife and kids like rabbits. I like older Americans because they’ve known tough times, while most of us today think a tough time is no cable television. I like soldiers, cops and firefighters because they watch my back. I like entrepreneurs who struggle to keep a business open and people working in spite of regulators who often have no concept of such things. I like people who don’t believe what’s theirs is theirs and what’s mine is theirs, too. I’ll give when giving is needed, but dislike takers. I like teachers, carpenters, clerks, bartenders, janitors, plumbers and baseball. I kind of shift toward such people.
Some of my best friends are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Green Party people, Independents and “others.” In fact, my brother is an “other.”
Hopefully, I’ll soon have lunch with the concerned Democrat and he’ll leave comfortable in knowing that if there is a shift, it’s away from the partisan bickering that is more concerned with “right-wing, left wing” paranoia labeling than with man and his measure.
Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union.
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