Answering frequently asked questions about The Bee’s coverage of politics

Executive Editor Joe Kieta, left, and Editorial Page Editor Tad Weber on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018.
Executive Editor Joe Kieta, left, and Editorial Page Editor Tad Weber on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. ezamora@fresnobee.com

The Fresno Bee is dedicated to providing its audience with thorough, accurate, fair and complete coverage of local issues. Political coverage is a key component of our work, and it’s frequently under scrutiny in a hyper-partisan political environment.

In the interest of transparency, we’re creating a list of “frequently asked questions” about The Bee’s political reporting and opinion journalism. What follows is a start to the FAQ, which we have populated with questions we routinely receive.

What’s needed now are your questions. We’re dedicated to answering as many of them as possible and posting them to the FAQ, which will be frequently updated at www.fresnobee.com. On occasion, new questions and their answers will appear in print. Email your questions to letters@fresnobee.com.

Q. Why does The Bee cover politics?

A. Covering politics is a time-honored tradition of the press and an important part of participatory democracy. Through news coverage, readers learn about the people who want to represent them in government. Voters get armed with facts with which they can make informed decisions.

Q. How does The Bee cover politics?

A. There are two primary ways. First, The Bee provides news coverage. This takes the form of candidate profiles, coverage of important speeches and rallies, investigations of candidates’ backgrounds and proposals, and the reporting of any breaking news that occurs on the campaign trail. Besides written content, increasingly The Bee provides video coverage of candidates at forums and in other settings.

Another component of political journalism is through the opinion page. There, The Bee offers its recommendations of candidates who are interviewed by The Bee’s Editorial Board. Readers write letters to the editor to share their views, and officials and community members can author op-ed or Valley Voice pieces that offer more room than a letter. Both letters and op-ed submissions are chosen at the discretion of the editorial page editor with the guiding principle to provide a variety of perspectives.

Q. What’s the difference between news and opinion?

A. In writing a news story, reporters present facts and quotes about candidates or issues. News stories strive for balance, fairness and accuracy.

On the opinion page, The Bee’s unsigned editorials reflect the consensus opinion of the Editorial Board, which meets frequently to craft The Bee’s opinions. Letters to the editor and op-ed columns express the views of their authors. Objectivity is not the standard on the opinion page.

Q. Is it true that you get marching orders from your corporate owner, McClatchy, on what to cover and what opinion to take?

A. That is false. Since its founding in 1922, The Bee has been owned by Sacramento-based McClatchy. But there is no master email that arrives each day telling Bee journalists what to cover or write. The Bee’s coverage is determined by its local editors, reporters and visual journalists — and no one else.

Q. Do your reporters have a built-in bias when it comes to covering politics?

A. All human beings see the world through a personal lens of values and experiences. But Bee journalists, like their counterparts elsewhere in the news business, take seriously their responsibility to report fairly, accurately and with balance. They check their opinions at the door once they enter the newsroom and begin their work day. Their job is to seek facts and report them, and to gather the opinions of others and report them with fairness and balance.

We welcome your questions and comments. You can send them to letters@fresnobee.com.

Joe Kieta is editor of The Bee, @JoeKieta. Tad Weber is editorial page editor, @TadWeber.