‘Sac Bee’ Public Editor Explains Paper’s Digital Future

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By: E&P Staff

Armando Acu?a, the public editor at the Sacramento Bee, devoted his Sunday column to explaining to readers how the paper is preparing for its digital future, or, what he calls “a digital, multi-media, interactive, around-the-clock news universe.”

“An honest look at the current state of newspapers and the impact on them and their readers by the constant push and pull of rapidly developing technology tells you the media world has changed forever and with it readers’ habits,” Acu?a writes.

“And, as crazy as it might sound, that could be a good thing, if newspapers are smart, creative, flexible and feisty enough to take advantage of the new challenges and opportunities.

“After all, most newspapers — including The Bee — are dealing from an enviable position of strength. They are highly profitable and dominate their markets, including the Internet, with news staffs far larger than any of their competitors and the reach and expertise to produce unique content available nowhere else.”

Two weeks ago the paper began staffing a “continuous news desk” to update the SacBee.com Web site around the clock.

“Already, the impact on the Web site has been dramatic,” Acu?a notes. “Once a straightforward, seldom changing, boring regurgitation of what was published in the morning’s paper, it is now publishing short, breaking stories throughout the day. Some live only a few hours online; others make it into the next day’s paper.

“It’s a fledgling start, and the news is fast and short, but the key is that it has begun. For a paper traditionally as stodgy and risk-averse as The Bee, that’s a huge step.”

Ralph Frattura, The Bee’s director of interactive products, tells Acu?a that the Bee is in the process of redesigning its Web site for a launch in March or April. Hinting at how The Bee sees its future as more of a two-way conversation with readers, Acu?a says that the paper will be “asking the public to test the tentative site.”

Looking to the future, Acu?a, who has spent 33 years in the newspaper business, sees the need for top-to-bottom change in the newsroom.

“For all the opportunity provided by new technology, the overall success of the paper’s efforts will rest on a cultural change inside the newsroom,” he writes. “Reporters and editors long tied to the rhythms of print publication will need to adjust and contribute to this additional way of disseminating news and information.”

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