Readers ask questions about The Bee’s news gathering. Editor Joe Kieta offers answers

Reporters at work in The Fresno Bee newsroom.
Reporters at work in The Fresno Bee newsroom. Fresno Bee file

Since last year, The Bee has been engaged in a project with Arizona State University’s News Co/Lab, part of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The goal: To become more transparent and open about what we do, how we do it and why we do it.

The processes we use to report the news are developed to engender readers’ trust. But the problem is you don’t really know much about how we go about our work, or why you should trust what we do. That’s on us. We have to do a better job of explaining how news is made.

Toward that end, I’d like to offer answers to some questions The Bee recently received as part of a community survey. I plan to do this regularly, and would love to hear from readers on any questions they may have.

Without further ado:

Q: How does The Bee plan to build trust and encourage multiple viewpoints to be safely expressed?

There are several ways we already strive to do this. First, reporters seek multiple sources for their stories to ensure all sides of an issue are covered. Sometimes one side refuses to give its perspective, which is unfortunate. I always encourage sources to talk to us, rather than leave it at “no comment.”

Second, our opinion page has both letters to the editor and op-ed viewpoints. Editorial Page Editor Tad Weber works to publish a range of perspectives and ideas to ensure a robust public discussion on the day’s news. Letters and viewpoints can be submitted at letters@fresnobee.com; letters have a 200-word limit, while op-eds can be as long as 700 words.

Third, anyone can email me at jkieta@fresnobee.com and comment on a story or ask a question. My phone is 559-441-6307 if calling is better.

Lastly, with the help of Arizona State, The Bee last fall launched its “Crossing the Line” project to explore the north-south divide that many say exists in Fresno. We organized a citizens group to discuss how Fresno was split economically and socially and what that means for the future, and The Bee convened a public meeting at Fresno City College in October that drew nearly 100 people on a Saturday. We wrote stories about the project and plan to resume the meetings this year, including one to which local elected leaders will be invited.

Q. I quit my subscription because The Bee has focused more on left-leaning reporting for my taste.

We get accused by both sides of the political spectrum of being biased one way or the other. When both sides are angry with us, we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that they’re both right — and we work to improve no matter what. Bee reporters, photographers and editors care only about one thing: Covering the news as accurately, fairly and quickly as we can.

The opinion page is a different matter, and this may be where confusion occurs. By its nature, the opinion section is just that — a range of opinions from local letters to the editor, opinion columns by local writers as well as national ones, and The Bee’s own editorials. Factual information forms the basis for most of the material on the opinion page, but at its heart, the section is about sharing viewpoints that argue for a point of view. Not all opinions are those of The Bee.

Q. I would be curious to hear about new things happening under the new leadership team.

The past six months have been busy for me and other leaders at The Bee. The Report for America program recently chose The Bee to help fund a reporter to cover poverty and related issues in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley. I’m always looking for ways to bolster The Bee’s reporting firepower, and this certainly helps. The Report for America reporter will work closely with editors and journalists at CALmatters in Sacramento on the poverty project.

We’re also about to embark on a reporting project with the Center for Health Journalism at USC. Reporter Yesenia Amaro will take the lead on this project.

Q. I wish The Bee would highlight and focus on stories that directly impact our community. We can consume only so much national news via social media and TV.

I could not agree more. The Bee’s mission statement is this: “To inform and advocate for the enhancement of life in the Valley.” We have the largest newsgathering staff of reporters in the four-county region we cover, and daily provide news across a range of topics, from politics and government policy to education and criminal justice to human interest. Contrary to popular belief, we publish uplifting stories as well as hard news. I am daily honored to work with dedicated journalists who, despite the economic challenges facing all media today, remain steadfast in their focus to our mission.

Q. What can we do to make sure The Bee stays alive? We need a hometown newspaper!

The best thing anyone can do is subscribe. A digital subscription is inexpensive and helps sustain The Bee’s journalism and provides unlimited access to all content we produce. It also opens access to the eEdition, which is a digital representation of the printed newspaper. The eEdition also contains an “extra extra” section with enhanced coverage of world and national news, features and sports. Many readers find the print newspaper provides a traditional look and feel of the news that they desire. A print subscription includes digital access. The Bee’s digital news content is steadily updated and fresh, and can be served through the multitude of digital devices.

We have another way for your to share your questions —a Google form. Simply open the form online (https://goo.gl/forms/rF9HcouMSlh6KAzu2) and type your question. We will get it and be able to answer you.

The Bee is committed to more transparency in our news process. Our goal is a mutually beneficial relationship, so please engage with us.

Joseph Kieta has served as editor of The Fresno Bee and the Merced Sun-Star since February of 2018. He is responsible for all of The Bee’s content and serves on its editorial board. He lives in Fresno and is a native of suburban Cleveland.