Bay Area News Group and Sacramento Bee Work Together to Grow Audience

Ian Swenson, McClatchy’s growth editor for the west/northwest region, speaks at a Table Stakes event last December. (Photo provided)

Two northern California news organizations, the Bay Area News Group (BANG), which includes the San Jose Mercury News and the East Bay Times, and McClatchy’s Sacramento Bee, have embraced what may be the future for our industry: collaborative journalism.

Born out of the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative Table Stakes Program (a curriculum meant to help newspapers reach new audiences and better engage their communities as well as accelerate journalism’s shift from print to digital), the two organizations decided to work together due to their “shared language to begin the conversation,” said Lauren Gustus, editor of the Sacramento Bee and West region editor for McClatchy.

Gustus said in June 2018 reporters and editors from BANG and the Sacramento Bee met in the East Bay to work out the parameters of what would be shared between the newsrooms.

“The idea is to boost areas where our readers would appreciate additional reporting,” she said. “So Bay Area sports fans in Sacramento get more NBA, NHL and NFL coverage, and Mercury News readers get more from the Bee’s Capital Bureau.”

Although news stories are the primary content being shared, McClatchy’s five California properties can pick up any of BANG’s sports stories and BANG is allowed to use any political piece McClatchy produces.

Gustus said that sharing other aspects such as video is difficult due to file sizes, watermarks and the like. They have, however, agreed to share budgeting and documents (“at a reasonable interval”) to permit planning.

According to a Better News article, the collaboration took them time to work out a daily communication system, but they do so now through a massive group email, and they are subscribed to each other’s email alerts.

Neil Chase, former BANG executive editor, considered it a fairly easy process to share stories as both news organizations simply repackage from one site to another. He told the Better News website that the process could be time consuming as they have to “recreate all fields, add SEO, find photos, proof and publish.”

Yet, experiments like this may be worth the trouble as the demand for local journalism rises higher every day, but not one local newspaper can do it all—which is why it appears the days of neighboring newspapers competing with each other may soon be over.

“Local journalism is the heartbeat and future of any news organization,” Gustus said. “If (collaboration) frees up local reporting resources to do more and better local reporting, then in my opinion, it’s worth a conversation.”

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