The Union attracts some fresh talent |

The Union attracts some fresh talent

This was an exciting week in The Union’s newsroom – or at least for me as editor. For the first time in months, we are back up to full staff. And believe me, as a small newspaper covering the better part of a county, it really pinches to be short even one person.

Having journalists come and go is a normal way of life at any community newspaper. Although our starting salaries are better than other dailies in the area, they’re not high in relation to the standard of living here. We’re often a stepping-stone for young journalists on the way up, or experienced journalists to whom where they live has become more important than how much they can earn.

We are blessed with having the best of both worlds on our staff – veterans of other papers both big and small, and some of the best and brightest young newcomers. What we offer the experienced journalist is a great place to live where they can do their best work. For the younger staffers, we offer a learning environment that can help them reach the next level.

I thought readers would enjoy learning more about our newest additions – in no particular order:

George Boardman had an ideal background for stepping into the job of business reporter at the end of March: years of newspaper experience in the Bay Area, including being business editor and city editor in San Mateo, then as a public relations consultant and writer for several technology companies.

When he and wife Mimi moved to Nevada County, he worked here as an assistant city editor, but he really wanted an opportunity to write, and The Union is glad to give it to him. (He is upfront in telling sources that Mimi is part-owner of the Stonehouse Restaurant, which recently opened in Nevada City.)

“Many people think business writing is boring,” he said, “but it contains aspects of power, wealth, greed, fear, and sex – and that’s just the Martha Stewart case.”

George can be reached at 477-4236, or e-mail

City Editor David Griner enjoys pointing out that government reporter Britt Retherford is surely the only journalist in Nevada County – and perhaps California – with “monkey handler” on her resume (for the Velvet Monkey Foundation in South Africa). She also was a helitack crewmember in the Stanislaus National Forest, can speak Swahili, and is a certified forklift operator.

After she decided that being a journalist was one exotic profession she hadn’t tried, we discovered her covering government issues in Meno Park for the San Francisco Examiner, and snapped her up.

“My goal here is to not only tell the stories people want to know, but to tell the stories they never knew were there,” she said about her new job.

Britt’s phone number is 477-4247, and her e-mail is

Our new Web editor, Mike Witherow, just picked up his degree from California State University, Chico, but he has been an online whiz ever since he learned HTML coding in high school so he could post the school newspaper online through his personal internet account. He also had a stint working at

Our goal at The Union not only is to turn into a 24/7 news medium, but to create enhanced features and develop innovative ideas for community interaction. Mike said of his arrival in Grass Valley:

“I was happy at the chance to work for a newspaper that seemed excited to try new things with the Web site, and at a company that’s not too big for one person to have an effect. I like smaller towns, and I like this area.”

Mike is at 477-4219, and

One of the most important beats at The Union is about growth, and Becky Trout has taken that position with full understanding of our readers’ interest in this area. (Her predecessor, Jamie Bate, is now the editor at the Sierra Sun, our sister weekly that covers Truckee at the eastern tip of Nevada County.)

A scholar and athlete at Wesleyan University and UC Davis, Becky warmed up for her new beat by covering growth issues in Woodland, Calif., and is eager to bring her skills to Nevada County.

“This is an amazing place to live as a young outdoor enthusiast – I’m passionate about soccer, running, hiking, I bike a bit, and think there’s nothing better than reading a good book on the porch. And it’s an exciting place to cover as a growth reporter.”

Becky’s contact information: 477-4234 and

Our most recent addition is copy editor Nick DeCicco, who literally a week ago was graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. But he worked his way through college at our sister newspaper, the Greeley Tribune, and already brings a wealth of experience in editing, design, as well as sports and column-writing.

“After spending the first 22 years of my life in Colorado, I’m both excited and scared to be in Nevada County,” Nick said. “I’m excited because it’s exhilarating to uproot my life and move so far away from my friends, my family and everything I’ve ever known. And it’s scary for all the same reasons. But I haven’t once sat back and asked myself, ‘Why on earth did I make that decision?'”

Nick’s phone is 477-4270, and you can e-mail him at

Nick filled a position that opened when Ross Maak was elevated to copy desk chief. Ross joined us about a year ago, also from the Greeley Tribune, and has ambitious plans not only to streamline the news production process at The Union, but also to help complete a long-pending goal of updating The Union’s stylebook and ethical guidelines.

One way to recruit bright people for The Union is to give them a taste of working here before they graduate. We got the OK to hire a summer intern this year, and were lucky enough to get Alex Wagner, a senior from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, where she was the managing editor of the student newspaper, The Pacifican.

“I’m enjoying the contrast of pleasant Grass Valley compared to balmy Stockton,” she said. “As the summer intern, I’m being tossed around the newsroom, testing my reporting skills on a variety of different topics.”

At the end of August, Alex will spend her last semester studying abroad at Oxford University.

Alex can be reached at 477-4234,

Adding these new folks to an already skilled newsroom team means readers can even better Nevada County coverage from The Union.

Next weekend, we’ll tell you about some new free-lance writers who will be adding to The Union’s appeal in the coming weeks. Till then, have a great holiday.


Richard Somerville is the editor of The Union. His column appears on Saturdays.

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