Because I spent my brief newspaper career on the news side of the business, I never had much use for publishers.
The publishers I worked for were typically former advertising salesmen who understood the business and production side of the business, but couldn’t quite get comfortable with the editorial operation.
When they looked at the editorial department budget, they probably recalled the old observation about advertising: I’m wasting half the money I spend, but I don’t know which half. They seemed to be more concerned about annoying advertisers and losing subscribers than producing great journalism.
(As an aside, that brings me to the biggest problem I had with the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight,” a well-told story of how The Boston Globe exposed the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. The movie gave no credit to the publisher or the owner–in this case, The New York Times–for resisting tremendous pressure to kill the investigation.)
I first got to know Jim Hemig during my brief stint on The Union’s editorial board. He let editor Brian Hamilton run the meetings about the paper’s editorial position on local issues, adding a comment or observation when he thought it was appropriate, but never trying to steer the discussion to a conclusion he’d feel comfortable with.
I’ve written several columns in the last two plus years that have given Brian and Jim heart burn they didn’t need, but neither of them has ever told me to dial it back or avoid certain subjects. That attitude comes from the top.
I got the impression Jim truly valued the contribution the editorial operation made to the success of The Union, and he wasn’t reluctant to say so. I’m a freelance contributor to The Union, somebody who’s not on his radar screen on a daily basis, but Jim would send me emails when I wrote a column he particularly enjoyed, and always thanked me for my contribution to the paper.
Jim Hemig announced earlier today he’s leaving The Union to join his father’s real estate business in Truckee. He will be missed by The Union and the community, but at least he’s staying in Nevada County. Grass Valley’s loss will be Truckee’s gain.