Jim Hemig: Editorial page challenge accepted
“If you aren’t making everyone mad at you, you aren’t doing your job.”
I’ve been told this countless times since arriving in western Nevada County as The Union’s new publisher.
Well, I didn’t aim to make everyone mad at me. Unlike some of The Union’s previous publishers, and editors, my goal was to be inclusive, not to be divisive. I had hoped to provide a forum for everyone to have their voices heard.
However, my best efforts to the contrary, it seems the editorial page is not mine to control. Apparently there is an active war going on over control of the editorial page — a war that an all-inclusive publisher has no means to regulate. Oh sure, The Union’s editor and I could “spike” letters we don’t wish to run based on our viewpoint or values, but then we wouldn’t be inclusive would we?
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This war over The Union’s page four first became obvious to me when a group from the Nevada County Republican Women Federated surveyed a month’s worth of opinion submissions and letters to the editor. They requested to visit with The Union’s editor, Brian Hamilton, and me to share their survey results — results they contend showed The Union is publishing more liberal-leaning opinion pieces than conservative.
This piqued my curiosity. How can someone judge, and label, someone else’s opinion?
So I shared this information with The Union’s readers and asked them to take the editorial page challenge. I challenged them to read, and rate, each opinion submission for the month of January. No easy feat since we publish six days a week, with well over one hundred opinion submissions in a month. I wasn’t sure if anyone would step up to the challenge.
Well, two did.
So, in this corner is the challenger, Holly Bundock. She reads The Union regularly; she is fairly new to the community and had never lived in a rural area before. She told me she reads the editorial page to know what’s going on in our community. She also reads the Auburn Journal and the Sacramento Bee.
Politically, she told me, “I am not invested in either the Republican or Democrat groups.”
Holly took the challenge and emailed me her results:
Holly found far more submissions to be considered neutral, which I found not only interesting, but made me happy that someone read neutrality in others’ opinions. However, once the neutral numbers are removed, she found more opinions to be conservative – albeit by a slim margin compared to the 145 total she read.
In the other corner is the prior contender, the Nevada County Republican Women Federated. Their editorial page grader is the well-known and long-time resident, Jo Ann Rebane. Jo Ann frequently submits opinion pieces for The Union to publish and is the wife of local conservative blogger, George Rebane.
Jo Ann, speaking on behalf of the Nevada County Republican Women Federated, emailed me their results from the January editorial page challenge:
Jo Ann found far fewer opinions to be neutral and more either slanted liberal or conservative, but with more leaning liberal. Again, with this latest NCRWF survey, I enjoy seeing the near one-third balance of neutral, conservative and liberal numbers.
The important point here, in my opinion, is how differently two people judged the same pieces. So, my point again, as it was the last time I wrote about this, is opinions are opinions. You can’t easily label them.
This war over the editorial page extends beyond this monthly survey into the realm of social media. Once I issued the editorial page challenge, some of the bloggers went off the deep end trying to sway people to their point of view. These one-sided “mini pulpits” like to use continual rhetoric to attempt to convince our community that the personal opinions of The Union’s staff determine what is published.
That simply isn’t true. I have said this, and editor Brian Hamilton has regularly confirmed it, we largely run what we receive from readers. Any exception is something we just cannot publish. Yes, you should see some of the stuff we get via mail or email.
What I find amusing is that this is not good enough for some folks. Brian shared one comment from a reader in his column on Wednesday, “Decide. Be liberal or conservative. As it is, trying to be all things to all people, you just frustrate all. Be the voice of one or the other and be effective in it.”
Pick a side? What would that bring our community? I know the answer to that, just another single-minded voice like some of the bloggers out there. The Union can do better than that.
The Union is the best place for community members to express their viewpoints and share their opinions with the rest of the community in a manner that is fair and balanced. The folks that took me up on the editorial page challenge proved that.
You can’t get that in blogs, on the radio or in any other news websites in our community.
The Union will continue to provide this service – and make everyone mad at me in the process.
To contact Publisher Jim Hemig, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4299.
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