Modesto Bee editor named to succeed Jim Boren in Fresno

Joe Kieta, a veteran news executive who has served as editor of The Modesto Bee since 2012, has been named editor of The Fresno Bee.
Joe Kieta, a veteran news executive who has served as editor of The Modesto Bee since 2012, has been named editor of The Fresno Bee. Modesto Bee file

Joe Kieta, a veteran news executive who has served as editor of The Modesto Bee since 2012, has been named editor of The Fresno Bee.

He succeeds Jim Boren, who is retiring Jan. 19 after a 48-year career at The Bee, the last five years as executive editor.

President and Publisher Ken Riddick made the announcement Friday.

“The Fresno Bee has an extraordinary tradition of community-focused accountability journalism. Joe’s digital understanding and experience as well as his commitment to that core focus will help advance this robust foundation for readers. I’m thrilled for the Fresno newsroom and the community to have the opportunity to benefit from this collaboration,” said Riddick.

Kieta, 46, is no stranger to the San Joaquin Valley; from 2001-2008 he served as editor of the Merced Sun-Star, where he established that newsroom as one of the best of its size in the state. He returned to California in 2012 to lead The Modesto Bee’s newsroom after serving as editor of the Observer-Dispatch in Utica, N.Y., and of the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Ga.

Kieta currently oversees the Sun-Star newsroom, and this will continue in his new role. McClatchy Co., which owns The Bee and four other daily newspapers in California, is in the first stages of a regional approach to collaborate more effectively and serve readers better.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be joining The Fresno Bee, which I have long admired,” Kieta said. “I have worked closely with Jim on many McClatchy initiatives over the years, and have recognized the high journalistic standards he has set and his deep love of this community and its people. I want to carry this forward. It is an honor to succeed him.”

In concert with this announcement, McClatchy has announced a new regional structure to enhance news collaboration. Regional publisher Gary Wortel explains, “as part of the next stage of Newsroom Reinvention, we are moving to a regional editor structure that will allow us to innovate faster, collaborate more effectively and serve our readers better. We know we are stronger when we work together.”

The regional structure will begin in the West and the Carolinas. Lauren Gustus, editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, will become regional editor over California and Boise. While day-to-day operations in each newsroom will still be run by the local editor, regional editors like Gustus will oversee groups of newsrooms, ensuring that they innovate, collaborate and drive toward a digital future.

Prior to his time in Merced, Kieta served in various editing and reporting roles at the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., The Tribune in San Luis Obispo and The Daily Telegram in Adrian, Mich.

In Modesto, Kieta worked to heighten that newsroom’s digital transformation, establishing itself as one of the leaders in McClatchy for audience growth. He also helped shepherd award-winning investigative and accountability journalism, including a series of stories that detailed the exceedingly slow pace of justice in Stanislaus County courts. A 2014 series that examined how local businesses were hit with predatory lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act won a McClatchy President’s Award, the company’s highest journalism honor.

Boren has spent his entire journalism career at The Bee, serving first as a vacation relief reporter and later as a sports reporter before settling in as The Bee’s political reporter from 1980-95. He was editorial page editor for 17 years before becoming executive editor in 2012.

He has been instrumental in charting The Bee’s digital transformation, something Kieta said will only accelerate.

“It’s no secret it’s a challenging time in the news business,” Kieta said. “As consumers of news, you have many choices. It’s our job at The Bee to make sure we are creating interesting, relevant and accurate journalism in the format you choose. We have to innovate, and we have to serve your changing needs and desires. And I’m thrilled to be able to do this with one of the most talented staffs in the business.”

Kieta is a native of suburban Cleveland. He and his wife Sandra have a son and two grown daughters.