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Learn more about our changing world



To our readers:

In anticipation of the Union Democrat's conversion to a morning publication in the spring of 2015, Publisher Gary Piech is writing a series of articles describing the steps the Union Democrat is taking during the conversion process. We will publish these articles in print and here on our website as the process unfolds. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please do not hesitate to call us at 209-532-7151.


Further changes coming to Democrat

Published January 9, 2015

The change of calendar years is always an exciting time. Many of us reflect on how quickly the past 12 months have passed — of things accomplished and others left undone.

At The Union Democrat, excitement is in the air. Between now and the start of our morning delivery on April 7, there is a lot of work to do, much ground to cover and, as promised, new announcements to share with you.

In August, I announced our plans to transition to a morning-delivered newspaper and, with that, a change in the days of the week The Union Democrat will be published: Tuesday through Saturday. This change makes a lot of sense in a morning-delivery environment. You will receive a fresh weekend edition first thing each Saturday morning. The results from local Friday night sporting events will now be available on Saturday instead of waiting for Monday. You’ll also find the popular Sierra Living section in your Saturday morning newspaper, along with PARADE magazine. What better way to leisurely start your weekend than a warm cup of coffee or tea and the local newspaper with content that fits your lifestyle?

A new editor, Tim Epperson, was brought on staff to refocus on local stories that are relevant to our community. At the same time, Craig Cassidy was introduced as our new Opinion Page editor. I hope you’ve discovered this new daily dose of local discourse. If not, open the newspaper to Page 4 of the first section and you’ll find editorials about our public leaders, their policies, the education community, business interests — a real cornucopia of issues that affect each of us. Not only will you find the newspaper’s opinions, but those of invited guests such as your state and federal representatives, local elected officials and other prominent individuals who are experts in their fields.

I have a few new items I’d like to share with you.

I want you to know that we will offer a full electronic version of our newspaper in the spring. Coupled with that will be changes in the newsroom allowing reporters to update the newspaper’s website while in the field. You’ll find more local, breaking news and sports in addition to reports on Sunday and Monday when The Union Democrat print edition is not available.

We’ve been studying our newspaper these past months and have come up with a new look for our front page, one that will entice readers to turn to inside pages for more local content. We’re also reviewing this content and seeking community input through focus groups. I will keep you informed on the progress in future columns.

One final thing to share with you that will add value to our subscribers: For the first time in recent memory, The Union Democrat will publish on all holidays that fall on a regular publication day; that is, Tuesday through Saturday. The first holiday that subscribers will receive a newspaper will be July 4, 2015.

As I said at the beginning, these are exciting times. I wish to thank each of you for reading our newspaper. I hope these changes will provide a better experience for you and valuable information about our local world.


Gary Piech




‘Local’ is what Democrat is all about

Published December 19, 2014

I want to talk with you about our new marketing slogan, “Local is Our World”. 

Well, the idea is not exactly new, but including it in our promotional material is. You see, for decades, going back to 1938 when a young 19-year-old Donald Segerstrom and an equally youthful Raymond Minners took the helm at The Union Democrat, local news, local sports, and local commentary became central to the mission of the newspaper. Before that, the newspaper was used more as a tool for local and state politics.

From 1959 until his death in 1998, Harvey McGee was the epitome of a local newspaper man. If a man could live with ink coursing through his veins, Harvey would have been that individual. Each day he set out to capture the local news of the day and editorialize about the nature of our community. His generosity was legendary. He had a profound effect on youth sports and always helped the underprivileged, especially children. 

The tradition of reflecting our community with local news that is relevant to your daily life with fair and ethical reporting continues to this day. So, although “Local is Our World” may seem like purely an instrument for marketing, it is truly the heart of who we are and what the newspaper has always been — part of this wonderful community in the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills, the area we call home, the Mother Lode.

When we say local is our world, we are saying we’re in this together. You, the employees of the newspaper, myself, we are all part of our community and we contribute to the success that is around us. I want to thank each one of you for your readership and for your concern about the issues that affect our lives. To our advertisers who support us, we thank you too. You are the key to our continued success. I want to encourage our readers to shop the businesses that advertise on the pages of our newspaper. These local business owners support you in many ways. Not only do they bring necessary goods to the marketplace but most of them contribute to community fundraising and volunteer for the many organizations that supply services to our residents.

Lastly, I want to tell you The Union Democrat puts a premium on giving back to the community. Each year, the newspaper supports over 50 nonprofit and charitable organizations, not to mention dozens of  individuals, families and schools.  Local nonprofits are an important resource contributing to a better quality of life for many. 

Take for example Meals on Wheels.  In the last reported 12-month period, 56,169 meals were served to local seniors. That’s more than 4,600 meals per month.

It is estimated that Sierra Repertory Theatre generates an estimated $2.6 million in local spending (based on the Americans for the Arts economic impact calculator). More than 50 percent of the theater audience travel an hour or more to attend productions. 

These are the types of programs The Union Democrat supports as part of our local world. We are forever grateful to be part of, and to contribute to, our foothill communities.  

Happy Holidays.

Gary Piech is publisher of The Union Democrat. He can be reached at 588-4574.



Changes continue for Union Democrat

Published November 14, 2014 

In late August of this year, I announced The Union Democrat will be making an exciting change to morning delivery. This change is on target to begin April 7, 2015.

I also told you I would keep you regularly updated through the process. Today, I want to share with you our selection of Tim Epperson as the editor of The Union Democrat. 

Epperson brings many talents to the newsroom including his experience with the Santa Maria Times’ transition to morning delivery. We think his skills and fresh ideas will complement the management team at The Union Democrat.

With over 20 years of experience in the newspaper industry, Epperson will focus on presenting a relevant daily report of community news and what it means to you and how it affects your day. 

Epperson has proven talents in story development, managing newsrooms, online content development and incorporating social media into the delivery of information to readers.

What does this mean for you? 

We think an improved experience with The Union Democrat, a better connection between you and our community — to our local world.

Tim Epperson arrives in Sonora from LaGrange, Georgia, where he was editor of the LaGrange Daily News, a 14,000 circulation newspaper owned by Civitas Media. His prior experience includes three years with Gannett California, where he was responsible for web content at the Visalia Times-Delta, The Desert Sun in Palm Springs and the Salinas Californian. Epperson also worked at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida, the Los Angeles Daily News and, as mentioned, the Santa Maria Times.

Epperson was born and raised in Bakersfield and is a graduate of California State University, Humboldt, with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.

Former editor Craig Cassidy will take on a new, important role as the opinion page editor and, under Epperson’s direction, will write daily editorials, coordinate guest opinions and sit on the newspaper’s editorial board. 

Cassidy’s range of knowledge about our community and spot-on opinions will keep you engaged with current news and controversial issues. Over the past three years, Cassidy has been recognized for his writings, most notably taking first place for his editorials on the Brennan Pendley sex scandal and the surrounding cover-up by his father, the Columbia Elementary School superintendent.

All of us at The Union Democrat appreciate your readership and look forward to providing you an extra dose of value with each day’s paper. As we move toward our change to a Tuesday through Saturday morning publication, we will continue to keep you informed.

We are very excited about these changes and appreciate hearing from you. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please do not hesitate to call us at 532-7151.


Gary Piech




Changes in store for Union Democrat

Published August 15, 2014 


Good afternoon,

I want to tell you about a major change that we are planning for The Union Democrat.

We think it is a very good one.

Sometime in the spring of 2015, The Union Democrat will switch from being delivered in the afternoon to being delivered early in the morning.

There are any number of excellent reasons for this change.

Perhaps the most important is that with late-night deadlines we can give you the latest and freshest in community, state, national and world news first thing in the morning — rather than delaying delivery of a similar report until the afternoon.

That means a full newspaper of news and advertising will be available all day in our local communities.

Along with the change to morning delivery, we will be switching our publishing days from Monday through Friday to Tuesday through Saturday allowing us to better serve our advertisers and readers with timely community information.

There are many, many details to work out between now and when we make the switch.

We will keep you regularly updated over the next several months as we work out the various aspects of this change.

During that time we would be grateful for any thoughts or suggestions you want us to consider.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at 532-7151 on what we see as a very exciting moment in The Union Democrat’s long and venerable history.


Gary Piech,


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